About Dr Brian Ang

Magnifiers for Reading

If you or your loved one are suffering from untreatable visual impairment, you can still be supported through advice on how to maximize vision through illumination and low vision aids, as well as moral support.

Do remember that you are not alone and that there will always be some form of help or support that you can benefit from.

Magnifying aids to assist with reading

Magnifying aids enlarge the size of print and therefore may assist with reading. There are many types and strengths of aids available and it can be confusing to know which would be best.

Unfortunately, there is no particular aid that suits everyone. For instance, a person who reads the newspaper at a table would choose a different aid to someone who wants to read prices and labels in the supermarket.

In a low vision assessment, an evaluation is done on each person to determine the level of vision and their reading goal. This helps to determine which aids would be most useful for that particular individual.

Types of magnifying aids

Handheld aids: Handheld aids use lenses to increase print magnification. The stronger the aid, the larger the font size. Stronger aids also tend to be smaller and thus are easier to carry around.

Some handheld magnifiers can be illuminated. Some can also be converted from pocket to stand magnifiers.

Remember that stronger aids may not necessarily be better. This is because they also have a smaller field of view and are therefore more challenging to use successfully.

It is therefore important to have some training in how to use these types of aids and to receive advice about which strength is the best suited for you and your reading needs.

(Image adapted from Vision Australia)

Examples of handheld aids. The two aids have different magnifications. The aid on the left enlarges the print more but has a smaller field of view.

Electronic aids: Electronic aids use a hand-held or stand-mounted camera to enlarge and enhance print, which is then displayed on a monitor or screen.

Electronic aids vary from portable devices with 3-inch to 7-inch screens, to desktop versions with up to 24-inch screens. Some of these devices not only enlarge print visually, but can also read words aloud as well with a speech synthesizer.

This includes closed-circuit television (CCTV) magnification systems that project magnified images of print material to a video monitor or television screen.

Braille translation software is also available – these convert print to Braille via a personal reading device or Braille display.

The main drawback for these devices is that they can be expensive. Prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousands. The desktop versions can usually be trialled at home before purchase.

(Image adapted from Vision Australia)

Examples of electronic aids. The font size can be changed to be as large or as small as required. Another advantage is the ability to alter the brightness and illumination of the reading screen for comfortable reading.

If you would like more information about reading aids as well as other low vision services offered by Vision Australia, please visit the Vision Australia website.

For information on how students with visual impairment can be supported, please check out the AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org webpage.

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