|Improving the Appearance of Your Computer|
by Bill Takeshita, OD
Computers can be one of the most valuable tools for people with low vision to perform their work, shop, bank, and communicate with their friends. Microsoft Windows XP and Macintosh OSX are the most popular software programs that allow computers to work efficiently. This guide is designed to help those with vision problems use their computers more efficiently. For VISTA computers, click here.
Which glasses should I wear?
The first step of maximizing your vision when working on computer is to have the appropriate pair of glasses. Distance glasses are designed to focus on objects at 20 feet. Reading glasses are designed to focus at 12 to 16 inches when you look down. Computer screens are generally positioned straight ahead at a distance of 20 inches from your eyes. Ask your eye doctor to design computer glasses to focus specifically on your computer screen. These glasses should also include a filter to reduce glare and reflections.
Where to position Your Computer
Computer screens tend to reflect light from windows, doors, overhead ceiling lights, and bright walls. These reflections can cause eyestrain and make it difficult to see images on your screen. The following suggestions can help you to read on your computer more easily.
Selecting a Computer Monitor
There are two types of computer screens. The most common is the CRT monitor, which has a cathode ray tube to project the image on the screen. These are the most affordable and are available in screen sizes from 15 to 25 inches. CRT monitors are available with "Flat Screen" designs, which reduce glare and reflections significantly. CRT flat screen monitors are excellent for general use and for those who play video games on their computer.
The second type of monitor is called the LCD Flat Panel Monitor. These monitors are more expensive than the CRT monitors but emit less radiation, use less energy, and take up much less desk space. When purchasing a monitor, it is recommended to purchase a 19-inch monitor or larger if you have blurred sight. If your clarity of sight is good but you need a brighter screen with more contrast, stay with a 17-inch monitor, which will be more affordable. The price of LCD monitors range from $150 to $300. Before purchasing a new monitor, try modifying the settings on your computer to determine if you actually need a larger computer screen.
Customize your Windows XP ComputerWhen you first turn on your new Windows XP computer, it will display a screen that is different than your old Windows 98 or Me computer.
Customizing Specific Features of Windows XP
You can modify specific features of your computer without using the Accessibility Wizard Program. This is also helpful when you want to modify some of the settings after you have completed the Accessibility Wizard Program. For example, if you have used Windows 98 and want your computer to have the same style display as your Windows 98 computer, you can do so. Another helpful tool is to change the resolution of the computer, which can provide you with even more magnification. In order to change these settings, you must get to the Display Properties Screen. Here is how to get there.
Another way that you can get to this screen is by using the Start button on the lower left area of your computer screen.
At the Display Properties Screen, you can modify any of the settings. The first tab will customize the Background settings.
When you have finished modifying the settings above, click Apply and then OK. These settings will remain on your computer.
How to Modify the Settings on Your Mouse
There are many things you can do to make the mouse easier to see. Windows XP has larger pointers, different color pointers, pointers that have trails, and even a sonar locator to help you locate the pointer of your mouse.
To make these modifications:
Modifying the Appearance of Internet Sites
You can customize the computer so that it ignores the colors, font sizes and styles of Internet sites.
There are many accessories that are available to help you to use your computer if you are unable to read the text on your computer after making the adjustments stated above.
Macintosh computers are now very accessible for children and adults with low vision. Macintosh desktop and notebook computers that run on the Macintosh OSX operating system have many built-in features that can help those with low vision to perform computing tasks more easily without the need to purchase additional software.
The Mac computers have excellent magnification features that allow partially sighted users to read print and access the Internet easily. Users can simply hold down the CTRL key (on the bottom left of the keyboard) and scroll the wheel of the mouse to alter the magnification. The clarity of the images on high magnification is quite sharp and the amount of magnification is more than sufficient for effective reading.
In addition to having quick access to change the magnification, the Macintosh computers have easy access to change the brightness of the screen by simply pressing the function keys F1 to reduce the brightness and F2 to increase the brightness of the screen.
Black Background with White Letters
Many people with low vision respond very well to a change in color of the background. Mac users can change the color of the background to a black background with white letters by holding down the APPLE Key, Option key, and the CTRL keys while pressing number 8. Although this sounds complicated, it is very easy to do by simply holding the three keys to the left of the space bar with the left hand and pressing number 8.
Screen Reading Software
The Macintosh computers also have a program called Voice Over, which functions as a screen reader to read the text aloud. We found it to be a very basic program that can be helpful to some people with low vision. However, the power of the Voice Over program does not compare with screen reading programs for PC computers such as JAWS, Window Eyes, and Hal. To turn on the voice, hold Function, Apple and F5.
Purchase a conventional PC Mouse used for personal computers. This is easier to use than the mouse provided by Apple Macintosh
PC users may feel more comfortable attaching their conventional PC keyboard.
Mac Shortcut Keys
This article was provided by The Center for the Partially Sighted in Los Angeles. If you live in the area, they can help you with:
The Center for the Partially Sighted
12301 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90025
We are happy to provide your office with FREE materials.