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How can low vision users browse the web using ZoomText?

In today’s world of technology, everyone is trying to make the content/information available virtually. In order to access this information or content, one will need to go and browse through different websites. Here, persons with low vision face difficulty to browse and explore websites due to reasons like small text size, background and foreground colour combination, blur images and so on.

Thankfully assistive technology exists to help low vision users browse the web irrespective of the font size, color contrast etc. used on different web pages. Screen magnification software is available for different operating systems to help low vision users to enlarge the computer screen to access and explore any website on their own. Among different screen magnifiers that I have tried over the years, such as Magic, Windows in-built screen magnifier etc. I personally use “ZoomText”, a useful and easy to access screen magnifier cum screen reader software.

ZoomText is basically an integrated computer software program for visually impaired persons specially designed for low vision persons. It is developed by Ai Squared and available on Windows 7/8/10 versions as well as on MAC. It is available in two editions:

  • ZoomText magnifier
  • ZoomText magnifier/reader which includes a built-in screen reader.

For the purpose of this blog, I will be working with ZoomText 2018 version with Windows 10 operating system.A screenshot displaying various features available for ZoomText Magnifier/Reader.

Zoom levelOne can zoom in and zoom out from 1x and up to 60x zoom level. It also allows instant switch between zoom view and 1x view.
WindowOne can select the primary zoom window type for the magnified view and can enable additional productivity views. The types of zoom windows that are available depends on:
·         Running the system with one monitor.
·         Running the system with multiple monitors.
ColorOne can toggle the color enhancement on/off and select a color enhancement scheme. The various schemes available are:
·         Invert brightness
·         Invert colors
·         Yellow on black
·         Blue dye
·         White and black
·         Black and white.
The smart invert feature lets one to see images in their natural color even if it is inverting color or brightness.
PointerHelps to toggle the pointer enhancement on/off and select a pointer enhancement scheme. The various schemes available are:
·         Yellow with full crosshairs
·         Red with circle
·         Giant green
·         Large yellow
CursorHelps to toggle the cursor enhancement on/off and select a cursor enhancement scheme. The various schemes available are:
·         Blue wedge
·         Green circle
·         Red frame
FocusHelps to toggle the focus enhancement on/off and select a focus enhancement scheme. The various schemes available are:
·         Red rectangle
·         Thick green underline
·         Yellow block
·         Thin red rectangle
VoiceHelps to toggle the voice enhancement on/off for the echo features. One can configure the ZoomText voice and adjust how acronyms, numbers, punctuations and other text patterns are spoken.
AppReaderLaunches the AppReader and allows one to choose the reading mode, including the app view.
FinderLaunches the Finder which allows one to quickly find information and navigate documents, webpages and email. One can also find element wise such as headings, links and images on a webpage or document’s.
CameraLaunches the camera feature, which allows one to use a webcam or document camera to magnify printed items and other objects right on their computer screen.
RecorderLaunches the recorder which allows one to convert text which have been copied to the windows clipboard into an audio file that one can immediately listen to on their computer or move into a mobile device.

A screenshot displaying new features/tools such as Finder, Camera, Background Reader and Recorder available in ZoomText Magnifier/Reader.

I prefer to use ZoomText features with the following settings:

  • As I have 60% vision impairment, I prefer to access computer on 4x zoom level because I can read, scroll and navigate through the screen easily at this level.
  • The toolbar has a checkbox below “zoom level” to switch between current zoom level and 1x view without closing any application which helps me to save time while browsing the web.

I like to use large yellow pointer scheme, green circle cursor scheme and thin red rectangle focus scheme which helps me know where my focus is and to avoid losing focus.

A screenshot displaying thin red rectangle focus scheme for an interactive element on a webpage.

Now that we have explored various features of ZoomText, let’s move ahead and find out about different command keys available for ZoomText. ZoomText has different command keys which are easy to learn and are quite handy for browsing any webpage with a keyboard.

Hotkeys and their functions!

Let’s go through some basic ZoomText hotkeys:

Launch ZoomTextCtrl + Shift + Alt + Z
Zoom In/OutCaps Lock + Up/Down
Enhance Color On/OffCaps Lock + C
Cycle Typing Echo ModeCaps Lock + Alt + T
Launch AppReader from PointerCaps Lock + Alt + Left –Click (on a word)
ZoomText On/OffCaps Lock + Ctrl + Enter
Zoom to 1x (toggle)Caps Lock + Enter
Voice On/OffCaps Lock + Alt + Enter
Launch AppReaderCaps Lock + Alt + A
Launch FinderCaps Lock + Ctrl + F

Tip: Click on “ZoomText” application menu button and then select “command keys” to activate ZoomText command keys window!

ZoomText with its variety of features is helping visually impaired persons in performing various tasks on the web easily and comfortably with lesser strain on the eyes. It helps users to navigate interactive elements like links and buttons quickly on a webpage, fill an online form, to send email, to view text displayed using images clearly and many more.

Along with all good features stated above there are couple of limitations that I have come across, which are listed below.

  • Sometimes user loses focus while navigating with a keyboard.
  • I don’t find its panning to be smooth as compared to Windows in-built magnifier.

Even though ZoomText has several features and it helps low vision users browse the web easily, in few of the situations stated below, I find it difficult to browse the information on web:

  • Tooltips or popovers displayed when users hover over an element with a mouse are difficult to read because they tend to disappear when users try to move their mouse pointer over them in order to read the information as the hover is removed.
  • Dynamically updating content when a link or button is clicked.
  • Content displayed using poor contrast between foreground text, icons, graphs or charts with their background.
  • Small size font used to display text created as an image.

I have used ZoomText on both; Windows and MAC and I find ZoomText on MAC has a better visual experience as compared to Windows in terms of clarity and brightness!

After all it can be said that assistive technology software like ZoomText makes browsing websites more easy, comfortable and quick for low vision users. Having worked with different screen magnifiers, my personal pick is ZoomText on a MAC device that has a handy interface, clear visual effect and a variety of useful features! Do share your experience if you have used ZoomText.

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