By: Carmen Willings
Video magnifiers (formerly called closed-circuit televisions or CCTVs) use a stand-mounted or handheld video camera to project an image onto a screen (ex. video monitor, television, computer monitor, iPad, etc.). With this device, people with low vision can read books, magazines, newspapers, manage a checkbook, read prescription bottles, or view photos comfortably. Most models allow for the user to adjust the magnification, contrast and illumination to suit the individual student’s needs. Using a video magnifier increases independence in accessing small size print, reduces the need to produce large print, has been shown to improve reading rate and efficiency and encourages writing through visual confirmation.
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In black and white models, the student may also change the polarity from black on white to white on black. In color models, the student may adjust polarity as well as choose the color of text and background. With this equipment, the student is able to view print material of all types as well as charts, diagrams, and photographs. Color monitors allow persons with visual impairments to take full advantage of the pictures and color cues used in charts, maps, and other educational materials.
The downside with any electronic equipment is that it needs to be placed near an outlet (unless you are using a portable device that is battery powered). Also, if it is positioned in the front of the classroom, it may obstruct the view for other students and the student's work is visible to others. Another challenge is that materials must be laid flat to avoid glare, improve readability and function properly. An extra-wide binding margin is especially helpful in books and other bound material, because it makes it easier to hold the volume flat. An anti glare, clear, Plexiglas board can be placed over the material to help create a flat surface.
Stand Video Magnifiers
Some students will prefer larger monitors as it will allow them to view more information at a time. A camera projects the image of the material onto a television screen at the student’s eye level. Most models fit onto a small table and are somewhat portable. In some schools, the table is placed on wheels to allow the student to move the device to various locations.
Typically, stand video magnifiers come with an x-y table, or it can be purchased separately. The printed material is placed on the x-y table which is a movable table that allows for fluid movements horizontally and vertically. The table can also be adjusted to remain in place.
Video Magnifiers with Distance Capabilities
There are many electronic video magnifiers on the market now that are able to toggle between near and distance which allows the student to view what is presented at a distance without having to hold a monocular or binocular, thus allowing for hands free distance viewing.
Portable Video Magnifiers
Portable models are also available for students who have more movement during the school day. The advantage of portable video magnifiers is that they are lightweight and portable allowing a student can easily take them with them as they transition to different environments. There are a variety of portable electronic magnifiers or hand-held magnifiers. Some have a small camera that is passed over the text, while others use a compact version of the desktop monitor.
Optical Character Recognition
Some video magnifiers feature full page OCR capabilities. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology allows persons who are blind or visually impaired to scan printed text/image and then listen to synthetic speech that reads the text/image or save it to a computer. The three parts of OCR technology including scanning, recognition and reading text. A camera scans the text/image, the OCR software converts the text/image into recognized characters and words and then a synthesizer in the system speaks the text. The information can then be stored in electronic form.
Selecting the Right Video Magnifier
There are increasing improvements and product developments in today's market! Many newer video magnifiers have a smaller footprint, are compact and foldable and lightweight making them an excellent choice for the classroom and for students who move locations throughout the day. Many of the newer models can be used with a laptop or iPad, and can be easily adjusted to view information at near, view self or view information at a distance.
"The question is not what you look at, but what you see."