for reading books,
menus and more
by Suzanne Robitaille
Is it hard to read? There may be a fix!
that magnify on small LCD screens, with or without illumination. They cost about $400.
Handheld video magnifiers are great gadgets for
writing checks, reading books or doing crossword
puzzles. Even so, they can’t read as wide a range
of materials as their desktop counterparts. One
popular version is the Optelec Compact Mini. It
weighs less than five ounces, has a 3. 5" screen, and
magnifies up to 11 times normal size.
So you found your favorite Ernest Hemingway
on the bookshelf, but low vision keeps you from
enjoying it. Or you’re trying out a new recipe, but
can’t quite read the flour and salt measurements.
Ten years ago, you were probably out of luck.
Today, technology offers a number of devices to
make just about anything in print more readable.
Here’s a quick look.
Desktop video magnifiers
Video magnifiers are video cameras with magnification capabilities of up to 90 times the original
size. They can be stand-alone devices or hooked
up to a computer or television monitor. They are
designed to magnify a variety of materials, including text on non-flat surfaces, such as the nutrition
label on a can or the drug label on a pill bottle.
Many products also offer advanced
options like reverse polarity (light text on a
dark background) or the ability to function
under a wide variety of lighting conditions.
The Optelec ClearView+ desktop video magnifier, for instance, has a 22-inch screen and magnifies text and photos up to 72 times.
For viewing text, photographs or maps, desktop
video magnifiers are extremely versatile. They’re a
favorite pick for students and adults who work in
non-traditional office environments, such as artists.
But they’re expensive, costing $2,000 to $3,000.
Scan-and-read programs work like video magnifiers to enlarge print. And they also translate
printed words into speech.
They work by scanning an image of the printed
text using a high-resolution digital camera and
then using optical character recognition software
to convert the image into digital text. The digital
text can be resized or read out loud by a computer
in natural-sounding speech.
Most programs will let you choose the color
contrast and will highlight a word as it is being
spoken, which can aid learning. Text can be navigated, edited and saved for later reading.
Scan-and-read programs cost about $2,500. If
you already have a computer, scanner and camera,
you can purchase the software alone for about
In a lower price range, consider a handheld video
magnifier. Portable magnifiers are digital cameras