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Desktop Readers and Video Magnifiers

Video Magnifiers Defined

Desktop readers and video magnifiers are essential tools for those navigating the challenges of low vision conditions such as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), reading devices for macular degeneration and other causes of irreversible vision impairment. When individuals seek solutions for these vision difficulties, they often come across unfamiliar terminology. Among the terms frequently encountered is “Video Magnification,” leading to the question, “What is a Video Magnifier?” A video magnifier is an electronic aid that employs a high-definition camera paired with a high-definition display to enlarge objects for someone with low vision. These devices vary in design, including portable models small enough for pocket transport and desktop readers, which feature a sizable LCD screen and an adjustable tray. This setup not only facilitates reading but also makes it an enjoyable activity for those affected by vision loss from AMD, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, Stargardt’s disease, and similar conditions.

The History of Video Magnification

The early generations of what we call today, video magnifiers, were referred to as CCTV’s and this because the manufacturer typically used a television that had the tuner circuit disabled (closed) in order to use the TV only as a display for the accompanying camera – hence the acronym, CCTV.  Early generations of these CCTV’s were often large, heavy and complex for the user to learn with many buttons and dials.

Who Uses Them

Video magnifiers and desktop readers were designed for people living with uncorrectable low vision due to any number of eye diseases or other reasons they have experienced vision loss.  The most prevalent user is a senior with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) who has experienced a loss of their central vision, manifested by a blurry spot (scotoma) that blocks their ability to see the complete text they are trying to read.  To illustrate this, imagine looking at the word ‘vision.’  The blurry spot might block the ‘si’ in the middle of the word, leaving the user to see only ‘vi….on.’  While this is true for the person with AMD, other eye conditions create similar problems that are most often helped with the same features and functions found in all forms of video magnifiers.

How Do Video Magnifiers Work

The person experiencing vision loss as described above, will often benefit from any one of or a combination of the following three things that a video magnifier is designed to do:.

Enlarge the Text

Desktop video magnifiers offer a straightforward solution by allowing users to easily enlarge text with a simple turn of a dial or the press of a button. This magnification process reduces the impact of blurry spots, making them proportionally smaller relative to the text size. Consequently, these spots no longer obscure letters completely, enabling individuals with AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) to read newspaper headlines and sub-headlines comfortably, even when the smaller print of newspaper articles may have been challenging to decipher previously.

Increase the Contrast

Video magnifiers for low vision serve as a crucial tool not only for magnifying text but also for enhancing the contrast of reading materials, which is equally vital. For instance, newspapers, known for their low-contrast medium due to the use of recycled, less-than-bright-white paper, often appear in a dingy, almost gray shade. The black print on such paper is not sufficiently dark, leading to complaints about newspapers skimping on ink to cut costs. However, desktop video magnifiers can transform these low-contrast pages into sharply defined, high-contrast visuals in both positive and negative modes. Positive contrast adjustment turns the grayish newspaper to bright white and the dim black text to a deep, stark black, making reading materials significantly more legible—especially when coupled with the device’s magnification capabilities, prompting users to exclaim, “I can read this!” Conversely, negative high contrast inverts the colors, presenting the newspaper in black with white text, a setting some users prefer. This feature is just one among many contrast options available on desktop video magnifiers, highlighting their versatility in improving the visual experience for low vision readers.

Movement of Text

The third element of most desktop electronic magnifiers is use of an integrated and moveable XY tray.  This tray sits directly underneath the HD camera and is able to move in all directions, allowing the user to navigate around their ‘magnified’ reading materials with ease, rather than moving their reading materials by hand underneath the camera.  Users with more diminished vision often need greater magnification which means a line of text from their reading materials does not fit on the width of their screen.  The moveable tray allows them to move their text through their visual field and this movement of the text also improves their ability to see the ‘hidden letters’ as they slide through their visual field under their control by movement of the XY tray.

Advanced Features – Text-to-Speech

Newer generations of desktop electronic magnifiers offer an option added feature of converting text-to-speech.  This powerful new feature gives users the ability to listen to, or both listen to and see their reading materials at the same time.

How Do They Help

Desktop readers and video magnifiers are here to make life a whole lot easier for those with low vision! With their cutting-edge features, they’re perfect for reading anything from mail to magazines, recipes, and even enjoying crossword puzzles. These handy tools are a game-changer, helping users enjoy a more independent and fulfilling life. Join us today in improving your vision.

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