While it wasn’t officially written as part of my IEP accommodations, my teachers and I worked together to develop various accommodations for my low vision so that I could use computers in the school computer lab. Because I attended schools with limited funding for assistive technology, I didn’t have access to any of the fancy screen magnification or screen reading software that many students have in college, but I was able to come up with several accommodations that worked well for me and other students with low vision. Here is a list of my computer lab accommodations for low vision that can be used by students, developed with Windows computers in mind.
Display scaling to 150%
Besides having large print, I have display scaling enabled to make everything bigger on my computer, which changes the size of apps and text on the main display. Even though I could benefit from a more zoomed-in display, I choose to keep my display scaled to 150% to prevent issues with accessing apps or having text run off the page.
To make everything bigger/enable display scaling in Windows 10:
- Go to the “Ease of Access” settings
- Under the “Vision” category, click on “Display.” The option to make everything bigger is in the second section of the list
- Choose the desired value from the drop-down menu
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Since I regularly use large print when accessing print materials, it makes sense for me to have large print enabled so that I can more easily read menus on the computer or use Magnifier to make the text even bigger. I have the font size enabled to 225%, which is the largest font size available.
To make text bigger in Windows 10:
- Go to the “Ease of Access” settings
- Under the “Vision” category, click on “Display.” The option to make text bigger is in the first section of the list
- Adjust the slider to the desired size.
High contrast display
A high contrast theme or high contrast mode uses a limited color palette with contrasting colors to make an interface easier to use. This is different than using an inverted display, though oftentimes the high contrast mode looks similar to an inverted display because of the darker color scheme. Users with photosensitivity or contrast issues can benefit greatly from using high contrast mode on their computer, as well as people in low-light environments.
To enable high contrast themes in Windows 10:
- Go to the Settings menu
- In the search bar, type “high contrast settings” and click the first option
- Click the slider to turn on high contrast
- Alternatively, press the alt key on the left side of the spacebar, along with the left shift key and print screen key
Bigger screen size
I was in a mentorship program in high school where I got to work alongside my elementary school technology teacher in various programs, including in the classroom, with the school news program, and many more opportunities. One of the issues we ran into was that I couldn’t see the video editing software that the students used on the small laptop screen, no matter how large the display was scaled. Our solution was to plug in an external monitor that would enlarge information enough so that I could work alongside the students and edit a project. Another bonus was that we all weren’t hunched over one computer. If privacy is a concern, turn the monitor in the opposite direction so that other students can’t see it.
Large mouse pointer
Starting in Windows 10 Version 1903 (May 2019 update), the mouse pointer can be enlarged to 15 different sizes, ranging from very small to gigantic. I use the size “6” for my pointer because it is large enough for me to easily track on the screen without having to worry about blocking information. When I’m using screen magnification software, I prefer to use a size “4” so I can still follow the mouse easily without it seeming overly large.
To change the mouse pointer side in Windows 10:
- Go to the “Ease of Access” settings
- Under the “Vision” category, click on “Cursor and pointer.” The option to change pointer size is the first section of the list.
- Move the slider to your desired size
Please note that this will only work in Windows 10 version 1903 or later, though it is free to get the latest update if the user already has Windows 10.
Use of Windows Magnifier
When I was taking my Microsoft Office Specialist exams in high school, I noticed that the testing software featured many small buttons that were difficult to tell apart. To fix this, I was approved to use Windows Magnifier during class and during the exams in order to enlarge items on the screen, and have since used Windows Magnifier for identifying visual elements such as icons, reading dialog boxes, and other information.
There are a few different options for opening Windows Magnifier that all lead to the same program:
- Using a keyboard shortcut- press the Windows logo key and the plus key at the same time to open Magnifier, and the Windows logo key and the escape key to close Magnifier
- Ask Cortana to open Magnifier
- Type Magnifier into the search bar of the Start menu
- Open Magnifier in Windows Ease of Access folder
- Pin Magnifier to the taskbar at the bottom of the screen
Blue light filter
Even though I already wear tinted glasses, I develop eyestrain very easily when working on a computer for long periods of time. There are a few different tools that I use to help this on my personal computer, though I typically use some of the following settings in a computer lab:
- Turning on a blue light filter on the external monitor
- Enabling System Night Light in Windows Settings to tint the color of the screen
- Using my computer in an environment with appropriate lighting
- Enabling High Contrast mode, as needed
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High contrast keyboard
For students who are learning to type or that want to be able to see their keyboard, I highly recommend getting a large print/high contrast keyboard as they are very easy to type on. If this is not an option, keyboard stickers added to an existing keyboard are also helpful for students that are learning keys, and Braille overlays can be added as well.
Simplified reading display
With double vision, it can be difficult for me to read a large block of text without having my eyes jumping all over the place or having the text distorted. One of the tools that help me is having a simplified reading display that shows 1-5 lines at a time in large print, and that removes unnecessary background graphics and advertisements. My favorite tools for this include Microsoft Immersive Reader, iOS Reading View, and the Pocket app.
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Extended time for assignments
This isn’t technically a computer-related accommodation, but it is helpful for students who use a lot of assistive technology. My current testing accommodations for low vision state that I can receive up to 150% extended time on assessments, though I typically do not use my extended time unless I am taking an assessment that has lots of visual elements or if I have to use a lot of accessibility tools on an exam. On individual assessments, the professor may approve additional extended time (up to 300%) if an assessment is particularly visual or if I have to navigate it exclusively using a screen reader. I had the same extended time testing accommodations for taking the SAT and ACT, though I did not typically receive extended time in my traditional classes.
Summary of Computer Lab Accommodations for Low Vision Students
- Display scaling to 150%
- Large print for text
- High contrast display
- Bigger screen size
- Large mouse pointer
- Use of Windows Magnifier
- Blue light filter
- High contrast keyboard
- Simplified reading display
- Extended time for assessments