When I was in elementary school, my parents would buy large print word search and other puzzle books that would keep me entertained for hours at home or on a long drive. Over time, the font size of the large print puzzle books has become more difficult or impossible for me to read, so I started coming up with ways to adapt puzzle games and access large print word searches, large print crossword puzzles, and other large print games so that I can still enjoy them with assistive technology. Here are my tips for how to adapt puzzle games for low vision using technology.
Why I can’t just increase the font size
Word search puzzles use a set grid of letters that are presented in a specific order and pattern. I can easily enlarge the font size of a novel or cookbook I am reading on my eReader or in a Word document without affecting my reading experience, but this isn’t an option for word searches or similar puzzles as the larger letters could spill onto a new line, or the formatting could be distorted. I’d be searching for the words forever if the letters were not in the order they were originally printed in!
For this reason, my tips for accessible puzzle games and completing word searches with low vision primarily focus on options for magnification and similar resources.
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: eReaders
- Reading Bookshare Titles With Microsoft Word
- How To Make Music Accessible With Microsoft PowerPoint
Find PDF versions of puzzle games
Images of word searches and other puzzle games are often low quality and difficult to enlarge, either with a pinch-to-zoom/browser zoom or with a magnification tool. Instead, I prefer to look for PDF downloads of popular puzzle games, many of which are also available in large print.
Free sources for puzzle games printed in PDF that I’ve used include:
- Search for the name of a puzzle game, i.e Sudoku, with the phrase “filetype:pdf” (without quotations) added to the search. This will only search for files in the PDF format
- Many newspapers offer PDF versions of their puzzles available for download- some newspapers may restrict this to subscribers, while others post online for free
- Printable puzzle websites- users can also take a screenshot and save the resulting image as a PDF
- For syndicated puzzles, many providers post PDF versions of their puzzles and archived puzzles online- for example, WonderWord word searches have an archive of their puzzles on their website
- Accessing The News With Assistive Technology
- How To Run Effective Web Searches
- File Formats For Low Vision and Print Disabilities
- WonderWord website
Why I use a tablet for puzzle games with low vision
I prefer to use a tablet like an iPad for puzzle games and accessible word searches for a few different reasons:
- I can adjust the viewing angle of the screen underneath the bifocal of my glasses, and hold the screen closer to my face than I can for a computer
- Gestures like pinch-to-zoom can magnify a portion of the screen without distorting page formatting
- Another magnification option is the screen magnification tool/Zoom, which can use a lens, docked, or full screen view to provide additional magnification
- Using a stylus mimics the experience of using a pen/pencil to solve puzzles, except it is easier to erase and change the ink color
- Display filters can be added to the page for improved contrast- for example, I can invert the screen to display white letters on a black background
Users with low vision may prefer to use a finger over a stylus for writing or completing puzzles, but I like that I can convert handwritten text from my Apple Pencil into typed text, or circle words with more precision than I could with my finger alone.
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Tablets
- Zoom Magnifier and Low Vision
- How I Use The Apple Pencil With Low Vision
- Enabling Temporary Accessibility Settings For iPad
Accessible puzzle game apps for low vision
When thinking about accessible puzzle apps for low vision users, I divide my recommendations into two categories, including apps for already downloaded puzzles and apps for finding and completing new puzzles. I have an entire post linked in the Related Links section to accessible puzzle games apps for low vision, but also wanted to share my favorite applications for writing on existing puzzles.
Notability is a free iPad app that allows users to draw, type, and annotate various file types. The original content of a file cannot be altered in Notability, making it a great option for puzzle games. When I download a PDF on my iPad, I open the Share menu and import it into Notability.
Markup is a built-in iOS feature starting in iOS 10 that allows users to draw on and annotate images and PDFs across various applications on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Users have the option to use several different tools, including a pen, a marker/highlighter, a pencil, an eraser, a ruler, and other effects such as text and shapes. Markup can be used with or without the Apple Pencil.
Google Drive (or Microsoft OneDrive) annotation
For Android devices, I use the Google Drive annotate tool, which can be accessed by opening the Google Drive app and selecting a PDF. From there, users can tap the annotate button in the bottom right corner and use a stylus or a finger. This option is also available in the Microsoft OneDrive application
- Accessible Puzzle Game Apps For Low Vision
- Notability and Low Vision
- Using The iPad Markup Tool With Low Vision
Adapting puzzle games for low vision from print
For users that already have access to several printed/physical copies of puzzle games that are looking for a way to make them easier to read, there are a few different options for adapting puzzle games for low vision.
Scan digital copies of puzzles as a PDF or non-editable format
Microsoft Office Lens is a free digital scanning application powered by a smartphone camera, which can turn images from the camera into a PDF or other file format, with options to adjust the page size and colors. Another option is to scan a page with a traditional scanner, such as those built into a printer. I do not recommend using a scanning pen like the Scanmarker Air as it could distort formatting and does not recognize pictures.
Use a video magnifier
Also referred to as a CCTV, video magnifiers rest on top of a page and give the user the option to “zoom in” and change the color of the page, offering more flexibility than a traditional magnifying glass. Another option is to use the Magnifier feature that is available on iOS, which uses the device camera to provide magnification.
When it comes to puzzle games, I prefer to use a desktop video magnifier that rests on a table and displays the enlarged image on a monitor or other large screen. These are available at many libraries or through the state unit for visual impairment, as well as available for purchase.
- Why Every Student Needs Microsoft Office Lens
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- Magnifying Glasses For Low Vision
- Services Provided By State Department/State Unit for Visual Impairment
Other tips for how to adapt puzzle games for low vision
- Looking for accessible puzzle apps? Read the companion to this post, Accessible Puzzle Game Apps For Low Vision
- Users can print out enlarged versions of puzzle games on different paper sizes to make them easier to read. I talk about the logistics of scaling content in the post My Large Print Music Binder
- For users that prefer to search for images instead of PDFs, use search filters to ensure that the resulting images come back in a high resolution- learn more in How To Create High Resolution Images For Low Vision