Why many learners with partial sight still need specialist computer magnification

Post date: 
Wednesday, 14 October 2015
Girl using magnification software

For many tasks inbuilt magnification on phones, tablets or handheld video magnifiers offer instant access to learners with vision impairment. But it’s not the whole story. In school or college, specialist magnification software can offer so much more explains Sean Randall.

Tablets, phones, and CCTVs all play their part in the life of a partially sighted student. For learners at school or college magnification on a handheld device can be the difference between independently filling out a printed questionnaire instead of having to rely on sighted assistance to do something which they are otherwise perfectly capable of doing for themselves. 
But there are many learning tasks which only work, or are so much easier to do using specialist magnification software on a computer. At New College Worcester some students use SuperNova magnification and are taking maximum advantage of its flexible magnification features. SuperNova can be installed on a desktop, laptop or tablet.

Video editing

Editing video is time consuming if you’re partially sighted because, depending on the level of magnification you need, you can rarely see the whole image at once. Specialist magnification software like SuperNova enables you to toggle the enlargement on or off, without having to go through settings menus or adjust the device in some other way. For video editing quick switching and adjustment  of the magnification and level is vitally important for efficient working.

Audio editing

Audio engineering is a lot easier if you have some vision because you can see a waveform on your screen. The beauty of more advanced magnification software is that you can bind a certain area of the screen to be enlarged, without affecting the rest. The students I work with who edit audio set things set up so that the current 30 seconds of audio playing is made larger, without the rest of the sound vanishing from the screen.  This means projects with their friends run smoothly.  

Group work

A key benefit of specialist software is being able to have a multi-screen setup. This means you can have a separate screen for each person – for example one with magnification, and one without. This is a hugely beneficial technique for group work, enabling each student to take a full part and follow others contributions.


Another benefit of specialist magnification software is being able to modify the colours of particular web pages or onscreen documents to make them easier for the learner to read. Likewise the appearance of the cursor can be adjusted for better viewing. This doesn’t always have to involve magnification. It’s about ensuring best contrast, making cursors and pointers on the screen easy to track and modifying or toning down text effects, such as flashing underlines on some web page links to allow the student to maximise their vision.

Versatility and simplicity

These are just a brief few examples of why, in so many cases, inbuilt magnification on tablets and portable magnifiers are not as versatile as SuperNova’s magnification on a computer or tablet. 
For students who are going to use a computer anyway, it’s often far better that they use one with specialist magnification installed that makes their life easier, rather than need to use another device  or attachment which can complicate the system.

About the author

Sean Randall is a higher level teaching assistant for access and information technologies at New College Worcester, a national residential school and college for young people aged 11 to 19 who are blind or partially sighted.


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