In fact, a more accurate question will be… how to magnify. You see, when it comes to assisting low vision users in reading printed material, we immediately think of magnifiers. The good old glass magnifier – think Sherlock Homes – springs to mind, but this is just one option. There is so much more to consider when it comes to reading small print.
Electronic Magnifiers consist of a camera, lights and LCD screen, where the live view of the camera is displayed. It has important features over and above the optical (glass) magnifiers – the ability to change the magnification level as needed, changing contrast settings by means of different foreground and background colours and the image freeze option. Electronic Magnifiers come in all sizes and shapes – and prices of course.
So should you opt for the bigger desktop option, or the small portable (or handheld) one? Well, it all depends of what you want to use it for, and more specifically the amount of reading (time wise) you intend to do.
If you like to read a lot, for example reading books, or you are a student or simply work with paper documents for long periods of time, no doubt a Desktop Magnifier is the better option. By design, this type of device offers a much larger screen, often 22″ or 24″. You sit in front of it with the monitor at eye level and most of these units have a sliding table on which you position your reading material. Scrolling through the text is done by moving the sliding table to keep text aligned. One can read for much longer periods on these magnifiers, as the field of view is big and a substantial amount of your text is visible before needing to scroll. The reading position is also very comfortable.
On the other hand, if you need something that is very portable, that you can bring anywhere, to read the agenda at a meeting, the menu in a restaurant or prices at the shop, well Handheld Magnifiers are the answer. It is small, with a typical screen size of 4.3″ or 5″. It runs on batteries and offers all the features of the desktop models (adjustable magnification, contrast and freeze option) at much lower price. Disadvantage? It lacks the field of view. As you may realise, to be portable the device must be small, with a smaller screen, which also means a limited amount of information displayed at a time. More movement, or scrolling, is required for this reason, and this tires the eyes and brain. For a small amount of reading, these devices are perfect. However, reading a book with your handheld magnifier would quickly highlight the need for a desktop unit.
Any mid-size solutions, you may ask? Yes, there are also magnifiers attempting the best of both worlds, unfortunately often by compromising on the portability or the field of view. So, which one to choose? Well, the question is… what do you read? And then we can advise on what you need.
Author : Bruno Savaria
Branch Manager and Access Technology Specialist at Sensory Solutions