When I was in third grade, my parents would buy me several different large print word search books that would entertain me for hours as I looked for various words. While I’m sure the large print books were not specifically targeted at a nine-year-old that was bored on a long drive, I remember the excitement when I learned about options for several other large print paper-based games that were available at the store. While that font is too small for me to read now, reflecting on that experience led me to learn more about how to adapt puzzle games on the iPad for low vision users, and to look at accessible versions of games such as word searches, crosswords, sudoku, and more. Here are my tips for how to adapt puzzle games in a digital format for low vision users that feel comfortable with technology.
Download large-print PDFs and use Markup or another annotation tool
There are thousands of high-resolution images and PDFs of various puzzle games, including ones that are in large print. Users can download these files onto their iPad or other device and use an annotation app such as Markup, Notability, or the on-device photo editor so that they can access a large variety of different puzzles. In order to find puzzles, I recommend using search filters such as “filetype:pdf” to find PDF documents, or setting image results to come back in HD. I have an entire post on Markup that is linked below.
- Notability and Low Vision Review
- How To Run Effective Web Searches
- How To Create High Resolution Images For Users With Low Vision
Enlarge puzzles by using the pinch gesture or Zoom
If a puzzle is too small, there are options for enlarging text on the device. Almost all images and documents can be enlarged on the iPad or other smart devices by using the pinch gesture to zoom in on an area of the page/image so that a person can draw/write text on it. Alternatively, built-in magnification tools such as Zoom can provide several options for increasing the size of the display- I recommend using the Window view so that only a small amount of the page is displayed at a time, though the size of the window can be adjusted.
Create digital scans of puzzles
For people who have a physical copy of their favorite puzzle game that want to complete it virtually, there are several digital scanning apps that allow users to scan in high-resolution copies of physical materials. My favorite app for this is Microsoft Office Lens, as it allows me to upload scans to my OneDrive and easily export them into other applications so that I can further interact with the content.
Use a color filter to improve contrast
One of my friends has an eye condition where they have trouble reading black text on a white background, and they instead prefer to use an inverted display or other color filter to read text. This works great for adapting puzzle games digitally, as many devices support inverting colors or adding other display filters to make text easier to read. Within the Zoom tool on iPad, users can choose to invert their screen, use a low light filter, or add a colored tint to their device in the Settings menu so that they can more easily read text.
- Choosing High Contrast Color Schemes For Low Vision
- Black Or White: Choosing Dark Mode For Low Vision
- Enabling Temporary Accessibility Settings For iPad
Access virtual editions of printed puzzle games
While my mom does not have low vision, she will print off digital copies of puzzles from the virtual edition of the newspaper that can easily be enlarged either through the ctrl-+ shortcut on the computer or by scaling the printed document so that the puzzle is larger. Bookshare, an accessible print library for people with print disabilities, also has several puzzle books that can be downloaded and enlarged in other applications- PDF versions of the books can also be used with Markup.
Consider using a stylus
When I was testing out ways to adapt puzzle games for low vision, it was easier for me to use a stylus to work with puzzles than my finger, as I had more precision and was able to easily draw shapes or type in numbers/letters as needed. I use the Apple Pencil, though there are several other styluses on the market for people looking for a larger stylus or something that is lower in cost.
Use a digital magnifier app for physical puzzles
For those who prefer to work with physical copies of puzzles such as those printed in the newspaper or in a book, there are several digital magnifier solutions that can help users to access printed information. I’m a huge fan of video magnifiers such as the Eschenbach SmartLux, though another great option is the built-in digital magnification app for iOS that supports several levels of zoom, color filters, and the ability to “freeze” images so that a user can look at them in more detail. For those who feel uncomfortable with using new tools, a phone camera app is also a great magnification solution- just use the camera zoom to navigate the page.
- All About The Eschenbach SmartLux Digital Video Magnifier
- How I Use My Phone As Assistive Technology In Class
- Magnifying Glasses For Low Vision
Look for accessible apps and browser applications for various puzzle games
With a growing population of people with vision loss and a growing interest in puzzle games, there are multiple options available for free accessible puzzle game apps and websites so that people can easily access puzzles with magnification, a screen reader, or other tools. I recommend running a web search for “accessible” or “large print” followed by the puzzle type of your choice.
Summary of how to adapt puzzle games for low vision
- Download large-print PDFs and use Markup or another annotation tool
- Enlarge puzzles by using the pinch gesture or Zoom
- Create digital scans of puzzles
- Use a color filter to improve contrast
- Access virtual editions of printed puzzle games
- Consider using a stylus
- Use a digital magnifier app for physical puzzles
- Look for accessible apps and browser applications for various puzzle games