Welcome to my new series on choosing technology, where I will be sharing my tips on purchasing devices, with a special concentration on students with low vision. I am studying information technology in college right now, but don’t worry, I won’t be using any fancy technology terms. Today, I will be talking about purchasing a printer.
While it’s possible to get by without owning a printer in college, it’s easy to find inexpensive printers on super sale, and it’s often easier to use a familiar printer than it is to figure out how to work the one in the library. Here are some things to look for when purchasing a printer. While I don’t recommend any specific model, these tips can help customers narrow down what features they want.
Make sure the printer will fit wherever it is placed. This is more important in a college dorm where space is limited, or there may be restrictions on where it can be placed- for example, not on the floor. I keep my printer five feet from my computer, on top of my mini-fridge.
More than a printer
My printer has copying and scanning functions in addition to printing. I don’t use these functions often though, since I have a scanner built in to my computer, but I appreciate having them. Think about how often these functions will be used, and if they are really necessary.
Wireless printers are becoming more and more common, so it’s easier than ever to print items. For students living in dorms, the printer will need to be digitally registered- I talk about this process on my post for the Chromecast here.
Other connection methods
Although I have wireless printing capabilities, I also have my printer connected via a USB to USB cable to my computer. Here is the exact cable I have from Amazon.
Do you frequently print items on larger paper sizes, such as 11 x 17? Make sure the printer can support different paper sizes. I typically use the standard paper size of 8.5 x 11, so this wasn’t an issue for me. Also consider the paper type that will be used, as some printers may have issues with heavier paper such as cardstock.
Some people may prefer to have a touch screen display to configure their printer. Check for color contrast on the touch screen buttons and the size of text.
My printer makes a series of beeps and other sounds to guide the user and help them figure out what they are doing. This can be very helpful, especially for people with low vision.
Add tactile labels
If printer buttons are difficult to see or maneuver, look for a printer with raised tactile numbers. Alternatively, try adding tactile labels, Braille stickers, or puffy paint to the buttons so they are easier to use.
Are you frequently printing items in various text colors for improved readability, or are you frequently printing high contrast documents with black text? Think about if you print in other colors frequently, and if a color printer is worth investing in.
Ease of use
Ultimately, if you need to get out the instruction manual every time you need to use a printer, then it isn’t the right device for you. Look for something that’s so easy to use, it doesn’t require active thought or take a long time to use.
I use a Brother laser printer that I purchased on super sale, and have been extremely satisfied with its performance. I wish you the best of luck in choosing a printer!