What Is a Vision Impaired Computer?

Daniel Liden

A vision impaired computer is a computer that is designed for — or that includes programs to allow for — easy use by individuals with vision impairments. A vision impaired computer can, in some cases, even be used to a limited extent by people who are completely blind. Computers for the visually impaired generally focus either on making on-screen text and images larger or on reading the contents of the screen to the computer user. Both of these methods can, at the very least, allow for elementary computer use, such as reading and composing documents; operating some media players; and even, in many cases, browsing the Internet. Some also offer motion-tracking aids so that visually impaired people can keep track of the cursor as it travels across the screen.

Just as braille helps people who are blind read, vision-impaired computers can allow them to use computers.
Just as braille helps people who are blind read, vision-impaired computers can allow them to use computers.

The most common approach used to make an effective vision impaired computer is to increase the size of the text and images on the computer's screen. Many computer systems include applications that will enlarge all of the normal-sized objects on the computer screen for ease of viewing. This type of vision impaired computer application tends to provide the most help with reading text. Images and other objects may become cluttered and distorted if they are enlarged too much, but it is usually possible to enlarge text while maintaining formatting and clarity.

Another type of vision impaired computer works by reading the contents of the computer screen to the computer user. In many cases, the computer user interacts with the computer by giving spoken instructions. As such, this type of vision impaired computer system tends to rely on voice-recognition software.

There are several other types of vision impaired computer applications that can greatly aid computer users who have visual impairments. Some programs enlarge the cursor or leave a visual trail behind it to make it easier to track across the screen, for instance. Others increase the contrast of the screen so that foreground elements, such as text, stand out more prominently against the background. Still others provide area-based navigation so one can selectively magnify a certain area of the screen without radically altering the entire layout by enlarging everything.

While a vision impaired computer system can provide a great deal of assistance, it is generally not sufficient to allow completely unrestricted use of all that a computer has to offer. Many programming interfaces, websites, and games are nearly or entirely unusable if the user is unable to visually keep track of a great deal of on-screen information. Improvements in computer narration technology and other forms of visual assistance eventually may increase the functionality that such systems can offer.

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