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Computer software content

There are a wide range of options available to make your computer easier to use. These include magnification, changing the colours on the screen, narrators and screen readers, or simply changing the position of your computer and screen.

Some of these features are built-in to your computer while others are available to download. There is also a range of additional software and devices available to purchase. The best options for you will depend on your level of vision and type of sight loss. Some examples are outlined below.

In this section:

Making your computer easier to use

Larger screens and different monitor placement can help some users by reducing glare and helping the person sit nearer to the screen.

Increasing the text size and changing some colours may work for you, this feature is usually built into your computer.

For some users, screen magnification software may help.

Screen readers turn everything on the screen into a voice so if you can’t see the screen you can still use the computer.

External Braille displays turn information from the computer into a line of Braille letters.

Optical character recognition (OCR) scans a printed page or book that the computer converts into text so a user can enlarge or read it with a screen reader.

Large print keyboards make typing easier for computer users with low vision. They have keys that are more bold and enhanced. This can be done by adding stickers to an existing keyboard or you can buy a custom keyboard.

ZoomText

ZoomText is a screen magnifier available for Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac computers. ZoomText enlarges and enhances items on the computer screen and can also read documents, emails, and webpages.

Microsoft Windows features and products

The Windows Operating System has some built in accessibility features. There are also additional free and commercial options available to help access Windows.

Windows Magnifier

Windows Magnifier is a piece of software that magnifies the screen partially or fully. To turn on Windows Magnifier hold the windows key and the plus key. To increase magnification, hold Windows and plus and to decrease magnification hold Windows and minus. To exit Windows Magnifier, hold the Windows key and escape.

Windows Narrator

Windows has a built-in screen reader called Windows Narrator. To activate Narrator, hold down the Windows Key, Ctrl and Enter. Narrator has limited features so for more advanced functions an additional screen reader is needed.

Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA)

NVDA is a free and open source screen reader for Microsoft Windows. It can also output to a Braille display. It is supported by a large community of contributors so should work with most software.

JAWS

JAWS is a commercial screen reader program for Microsoft Windows. It is a popular screen reader that can work with an external Braille display.

Apple Mac features and products

Apple Mac computers have some built in accessibility features, including a screen reader and a magnification programme.

The Mac magnifier allows the user to view the page up to 20 times zoom. To activate these settings, select Apple menu and System Preferences, click to open the Accessibility panel, and then click Zoom in the panel on the left.

VoiceOver is the built-in screen reader for Mac computers. To turn on VoiceOver, click the Apple menu and System Preferences, click Accessibility, and then click ‘on’ next to VoiceOver in the panel on the left. If your Mac has function keys, the shortcut to turn on Voiceover is Command and F5. If your Mac has a touch bar instead of the function keys, hit Command and Touch ID button (on the right of the touch bar) three times. When you turn on VoiceOver for the first time there is an automatic tutorial.

More information about Apple Mac accessibility is available on the Apple website.

LINUX

Linux is a free and open source operating system. Most versions of Linux have a built in screen reader called Orca. Click Windows key, Alt, S to turn it on or off. There are different display managers in Linux. The main one of these is called GNOME. This has an inbuilt magnifier, click Windows key, Alt, 8 to turn this on or off.