Roberta: Media Access Australia has launched a new section on their website dedicated to free and low cost screen magnifiers. The new section includes information and reviews about free and low cost screen magnifiers and their common features.
Today we are joined in the studio by Sarah Pulis, Manager of Digital Media and Technology for Media Access Australia who’s going to take us through the new information. Welcome, Sarah.
Sarah: Thanks very much, Roberta.
Roberta: Now, what is a screen magnifier.
Sarah: A screen magnifier is computer software that enlarges a portion of the screen, allowing people who are vision impaired to see the text or the information more easily. It’s essentially a virtual magnifying glass for your computer. Screen magnifiers can be particularly useful for older people with decreased clearness of vision resulting from conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma or cataracts. They’re quite easy to use and fairly intuitive as well.
Roberta: So what are some of the common features of screen magnifiers, Sarah?
Sarah: Well, look, the main one is the magnification scale and that refers to how much you can enlarge the image from its original size. So for example if a screen magnifier is a 16x magnifier, it means that you can enlarge the screen or its selected parts up to 16 times. As you increase the magnification level past by about 10x, text can become harder to read. What you’ll see is the edge of the text become a little bit jagged.
For anyone using really high magnification, what you want to look for is a smoothing feature which is another common feature, and this can actually significantly reduce these problems by actually smoothing out those rough edges. The other important features are the different magnification modes, in particular, full-screen mode, lens mode and fixed-window mode.
Full-screen mode actually enables you to enlarge the entire screen at once and you actually move around the screen just by, say, using your cursor or using the arrow keys as well.
The other modes are lens mode, and that actually just enlarges the area around your mode, and fixed-window mode where you can actually magnify a selected part of the screen. Now, each of these modes sort of works for different things that you’re doing, although generally we find that most people do prefer full-screen mode.
Roberta: Sarah, we mentioned at the top of the program free and low cost, so what free and low cost screen magnifiers are available?
Sarah: What we did on the website is we actually looked through all the free and low cost screen magnifiers that are available and we created a short list based on the features that they offer and also what platform they run on; so i.e., are you running Windows are Mac. If you’re an Apple Mac user, there’s actually an inbuilt screen magnifier called Zoom and that has all the common features you would find in a free or low cost screen magnifier.
For Windows users, there are a few more options out there. If your computer is running Windows 7, there’s actually an inbuilt Windows 7 magnifier. It comes with the operating system and again, has most of those core features that you’ll need. Just note that if you are running older versions of Windows, so XP or previously or at least prior to that, the screen magnifier is actually different and doesn’t have as many features as the one you find in Windows 7.
But alternately, you can look at The Magnifier. The advantage of this one is it offers a very high magnification scale and can be used with dual screen, which is for all the techies out there, if you’re using two monitors at the one time. If you need a portable magnifier, so one that, say, if you’re going to visit a friend’s house or you’re going to a public library and you need to bring your magnifier with you, then you might like to look at Desktop Zoom.
Roberta: Well, there’s other information available I’m sure and where can people find that about other assistive technology?
Sarah: Yes, certainly. Well, as part of this process, we have uploaded reviews of the free and low cost screen magnifiers. We’ve got a comparison table there that actually provides a summary of the different magnifiers and compares their most common features. So if there’s a particular feature that you’re looking for, you can actually see which magnifier supports it. And this is great to be used in combination with our description of the actual features, so you can get a handle of those too.
But we also have reviews of the four screen magnifiers that I mentioned before, so Zoom, Windows 7 magnifier, The Magnifier and Desktop Zoom. And we also have information about free and low cost screen readers as well in that section and this includes the popular NVDA screen reader which actually just secured $100,000 in funds from individuals and organisations to continue their great work.
Roberta: That’s super news.
Roberta: Well, thanks for talking with us today, Sarah. If you would like to visit the new section that reviews free and low cost screen magnifiers as well as screen readers, visit Media Access Australia’s website at mediaaccess.org.au. Go to the digital technology section and click on Assistive Technology. If you would like to provide feedback to Media Access Australia about their reviews or ask a question, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 9212 6242. That’s 9212 6242. Thank you, Sarah.
Sarah: Thanks very much, Roberta.
Roberta: I’ve been speaking with Sarah Pulis, Manager of Digital Media and Technology from Media Access Australia and Media Access Australia are supporters of this program.
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