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How Do You Use A Computer When You Can’t See?

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” ~C.G. Jung

#1 - Screenreading & Magnification Tools located on my bottom toolbar.
#1 – Screenreading & Magnification Tools

One question I’m frequently asked as it relates to my sight loss is how I’m able to do some of the things I do like; work on the computer, read, watch tv, cook, grocery shopping, travel independently, walk my dog, makeup application, coordinating outfits, to name a few. The short answer is with training I’ve learned how to accomplish day-to-day tasks with low-tech labeling tools like fluorescent bump dots or Ott lamp to high-tech gadgets like video magnifiers or CCTVs (closed circuit televisions).

#2 - Magnification Controls
#2 – Magnification Menu
#3 - Magnified page
#3 – Transparent Magnifying Glass

Several decades ago when I first heard the term “paperless office” I thought there’s no way this will work. I couldn’t comprehend what would happen to my paper filing systems I mean I had many years worth of pay stubs, bank statements, health records, financial records, household data and on and on.

#4 - Full Page Magnified View
#4 – Full Page Magnified View

Thankfully as technology evolves I do too. I went from someone who had to keep every scrap of paper because “you just never know when you’ll need it” to a shredding maniac and transferred my paper filing skills to digital. Today, I do everything online and I have no need for paper other than to scan it to my computer if need be.

#5 - Magnification Options (full, lens, docked)
#5 – Magnification Options (full, lens, docked)

Since my life literally revolves around my computer I felt the time was right to show you how I use it especially in view of the fact that my magnifying/screen reading software of choice is not compatible with my system. Windows has built-in accessibility or “Ease of Access” which includes a narrator, magnifier, high contrast, closed captions, keyboard, mouse and other options.

#6 - Magnification Lens
#6 – Magnification Lens

My laptop is connected to a 32-inch flat screen television which I use as a monitor. With such a nice size screen, I have more desktop real estate to manage multiple programs with increased magnification. I’ll describe each of the screenshots in this post to give you an idea of how I use Windows 10 built-in accessibility.

#7 - Narrator Options (general, voice, commands, minimize)
#7 – Narrator Options (general, voice, commands, minimize)
  1. I’ve pinned the narrator and magnifier tools (highlighted) to my taskbar at the bottom of my screen. This way I don’t have to hunt for the settings.
  2. When I open the magnification tool the control menu pops up. In this screenshot, the plus and minus signs allow for an increased or decreased view. There are 3 optional views from which to choose (full screen, floating lens or docked lens). The magnifier goes up to 1600% however at this setting there is very little on the screen.
  3. No matter what optional view is chosen (this is full screen) there is a transparent magnifying glass (arrow highlight) that I can click on at any time to change my settings.
  4. When I click on the magnifying glass the magnification menu appears so I can alter my adjustments.
  5. This screenshot shows the available viewing options and keyboard shortcuts.
  6. The highlighted circle shows what the lens option looks like. It will magnify wherever the mouse is moved.
  7. The narrator menu has a number of options such as voice, speed, pitch and volume. In addition, you can select how the narrator starts, navigation and create keyboard shortcuts.

Life is different after you develop a disability, but when the focus is placed on what you can do, with some adaptations, life continues onward.

41 thoughts on “How Do You Use A Computer When You Can’t See?

  1. Cool post Steph. Where would we be without cool computers and technology? (Other than sitting “in the dark”, feeling lonely and not be able to meet friends or find any info easily)

    I love that these days no matter what major tech you buy, it comes (or should) with some decent accessibility options. So whether it’s an iphone or a windows laptop or a samsung tablet, they all come with screenreaders (so no more living in the era of Jaws as the only option, a $1600 reader software someone else would need to install and configure). Magnifiers, high contrast themes, colorblind options, text sizes you can change and zoom. And it’s always lovely discovering how others use theirs – or even to show random cool features they could use.

    Last week I showed how Magnifier app of iPhone (in settings, accessibility, vision) works to a few people who are of the age when it’s common to use reading glasses. They had no clue it existed, and seemed pleased. They had just been shown a portable CCTV, a bit bigger than an iPhone. Now… use e phone any time they need to zoom in on something in real life, like trying to decipher if that pancake mix is glutenfree without having to ask for help…

    And there should be no stigma in using any of the accessibility things. 💚 It’s maybe weird but it it took my other half quite a bit of getting used to the fact that voiceover makes my life easier. He’s a gamer so he likes big screens and looking at stuff, so going with smaller or no screens, huge high contrast things and then with rabbit voices seemed weird to him I guess. Funny how noone thinks of Siri (Cortana, Alexa etc) as assistive tech as nearly everyone uses those, whereas voiceover, talkback or narrator seem scary assistive tech to them. I guess the more people will notice others use those, the more normal those features will be. Besides, technically, reading glasses are assistive tech too. So let’s zoom in, high contrast, and listen to stuff on fast speed, whichever works boldly 😎

    1. Hey Anna, I am so with you on your comment here. Hopefully soon with the rapid advancement of technology it will make JAWS as thing of the past but then I’ve not had the opportunity to learn it but if I had to I’d do it in a heartbeat. My issue is that the technology should not only be readily available it should also be affordable. You make a great point about Alexa, Cortana and Siri and how they were so easily embraced by the general public but not seen as accessible tools. I had a CCTV for a few years but honestly I could only use it for a quick read here and there. To try to read a book or something would have pushed me over the edge so I’m so thankful for computers because they’ve eliminated the need for some of the extras. One of my other sighted followers here told me that he also uses Windows magnification when giving presentations. He had me cracking up because he said when he showed others they thought he was like a computer genius because they didn’t know the feature was even on their systems. By the way I like your ending “So let’s zoom in, high contrast, and listen to stuff on fast speed, whichever works boldly.”😎

      1. affordability is a big thing. i am lucky to get my husband’s old iphones – couldn’t live without my 6s.
        and so many people have also other health issues that are expensive (like diabetes or cancer) any extra $ on new tech may be a burden.
        but the way i see it… with my phone i can make several other things obsolete: gps gadgets, books and book readers, cctvs, … those alone could be $1000 and heavy and clumsy to carry around.
        it’s also lovely audiobooks are so mainstream these days. more and up to date selection, good reader voices, apps with which you can choose how fast you listen… so much more comfortable than trying to squint thru a print or an ebook.

      2. Yeah, it makes me wonder how these companies who charge and arm and a leg are going to keep up. I love ZoomText but it’s still costly and I’ve had compatibility issues with it or worse it would bog down my computer. So the best option for me at this time is using Windows accessibility. I know that something better will be coming down the pike soon so I’ll play the waiting game.

  2. I was curious, and this post was very informative. Amazing.

    1. Thank you Paul!💗

  3. Hi, Steph.
    I wrote a FAQ on this very topic, which you’re free to use as an additional resource if you’d care to do so.
    https://davidgoldfield.wordpress.com/faq/

    1. Hi David, this is a superb article. Would you mind if I share a teaser here and link back to your site? This is so much more comprehensive and speaks to the “how” assistive technology works. I look forward to hearing back from you. ~Steph

      1. Steph, thank you for your kind words. Sure, feel free to link to it if you feel that it would be helpful.

      2. You’re very welcome and I think it would be interesting and helpful to my readers.

  4. Thank you for this post and thank you to the smart people who develop this technology. I had wondered how exactly you work on the computer.

    1. Yes, I’m a self professed techno nerd so anything technology related is right up my alley.

  5. Thank you for posting. I’ve wondered about this.

    1. Thank you for commenting. Part of my reasoning behind the creation of this blog/community ,was to have an open and ongoing discussion on blindness/sight loss in the hopes that we can achieve a greater understanding of what it’s like living with blindness while promoting our abilities.

  6. Hello Steph. What an interesting post. I had no idea that all these things existed on Windows! Great that technology is advancing, and hopefully it will prove more and more helpful. It is interesting for me to read about how others manage their disabilities. I hope with time, I will be able to manage mine with more confidence. You’ve given me a lot of hope in this post. Thank you! take care. Carly

    1. Hi Carly, yes I’ve known for years about the accessibility features in windows and had even tried them but when began using ZoomText a more powerful screen reading/magnification program I was hooked. Unfortunately the newest version of ZoomText is not compatible with my computer so when this computer dies I’ll have to ensure I get one with the correct specifications to allow for ZT.

      You make a great point about becoming more confident with time in living with your disability. As long as you keep moving forward, even with periodic setbacks you can do this! I like saying don’t give up, rather give in by embracing your disability and continuing to live life to its fullest. Warmest Hugs!! 💗Steph

  7. You explained it to me a while ago and I am so glad you did. I am also glad I had the nerve to ask. 🙂

    1. Yup, and you’re one of the reasons I did the post. Thank you again for asking because I made a note that day, took some photos, and waited for an opportunity to share them. I have to do more on, for example, how I use my cell phone in general and use it to take photos using the voice commands feature. There really is a multitude of topics that can be covered it’s just getting myself to focus. Thanks again!!🙂 If there is anything else that comes to your mind just zap me an email at smccoy@boldblindbeauty.com. 💗

      1. Oh dear, you don’t want to know whats on my mind. It’s in a state of menopausal confusion. LOL

      2. Hahaha!! Then we’re both on the same wavelength. 🤣🤣🤣

  8. Steph^_^
    I remember when you first mentioned you had a 32 inch monitor hooked up to your laptop…. oooh I was positively green because my monitor was a modest 14inch but now; I have me a 42 inch screen, ah what fun times it is to hook up my computer there and watch a movie with an almost cinematic experience…. and play video games of course…
    Seriously though the ease of access options are quite nifty, sometimes I need to use my laptop to do presentations on a projector and the projection screen will be several feet away so the magnifier tool is handy in highlighting portions of the screen not only to make it easy to read but also to find the maximise, minimise and close page tabs its so easy and super annoying when you close a page or exit an app when you what you wanted to do was minimise it….

    ~B

    Oh and I absolutely love the opening quote…. The quote on my bio reads:

    I am not the words I write, nor the thoughts I share, but with each letter I become ME

    1. Hey B. How bout I trade ya my 32 for your 42 inch? Now who’s green with envy? 😜

      Isn’t it amazing all the things we can do with the various technological components at our disposal. Remember the old picture tube tvs? Then they got rather large but were so bulky it took a couple of people to move them? Imagine hooking up a laptop to one of those – yikes!!😖

      Glad to hear the magnification tools are helpful to you when doing presentations. I’m sure the average person doesn’t even know the features exist.

      I’ve seen your quote on your blog and Twitter, I believe (I’m no longer on Twitter) and I thought it was superb!!

      I hope you are doing well. I must swing by your way and fill up on your stories. 😊

      1. Those old TVs suddenly seem like they were from forever ago, but I still have one its in garage, it works and everything tried to sell it, and there we no takers hahaha I guess since you can not even connect a dvd player to it a laptop is totally out of the way…
        I was actually teaching someone how the customization accessibility are so easy a click away and they were super surprised like I was tech geek computer hacker hahahahaha all I did was read windows 10 features….
        Yes, I noticed you disappered from the twitterworld I had to find your site the old-fashioned way …. I googled hahahaha google is such a wonderful, how cool would it be though if you could totally google anything like, google where is my phone and google tells you “its under your pillllow silly” thats the sorta tech I want in my life ☻
        ~B

        PS I am doing awesome thanks glad to catch up havent been on your site in ages.. cheers

      2. Uh oh, a techno nerd, hahaha. There are so many features on computers I daresay most people don’t take advantage of most of the crap they download prior to selling. I got so tired of stuff I don’t want or need that at every opportunity I delete bloatware from all of my devices.

        Yeah, Twitter – I had to let it go, too much noise. It got to the point I had to ask myself with everyone talking who’s listening. Almost as bad as Facebook I found it sucked too much of my time so now I’m only on WordPress, my online store, FB and IG. It’s made life so much easier than trying to manage multiple social media accounts. The only way I could see adding more would be if I get help. Oh and I agree with you about google – geez, I wish it was around when I was in school. I google everything and then google what I googled to make sure it’s not “fake news”

        It’s been so good chatting with you. I hope with the implementation of my steering committee I’ll have more time to visit my favorite bloggers.

  9. I love the quote at the beginning of your post! We would all be better off if we would live by it. You, as always, are an inspiration.

    1. Thank you. I thought the quote fit nicely with today’s theme.😊

  10. I’ve seen the accessibility options before, but they have been one of those things I just ignored because I don’t need them. Are there any you find more useful than others? Like, if you had to choose to keep only one, which would it be?

    1. If I had to choose only one it would be the magnification because as long as I have that I can do most anything. The narrator makes it easy to handle text heavy documents but more often than not I end up turning this feature off. When I had ZoomText which is so much more robust than what Windows offers, I had a great selection of colors, voices, cursors, it was such a beautiful program but it bogs down my computer.

      1. Thanks for the response to my question – I was very curious.

      2. You’re welcome. Thank you for asking.😊

  11. wow! I wondered how you managed. you are a remarkable woman.

    1. Thanks Jim. I’m just glad that I have a knack for technology it almost borders on an obsession but it makes my life so much easier. Since smart phones came on the scene I’ve not had to rely on multiple gadgets so I was able to donate the ones I no longer need to someone who could benefit from their use.

  12. Wonderful use of technology, Steph. Hopefully, these tools will just get better and better. I’ve tried to talk my mom into using the computer and told her that there are ways to make it work for her, but she says she’s too old to learn. Fortunately, she has a gigantic reader/magnifier that she’s comfortable using.

    1. Yes, Diana as I write this more and more updates are in the works. From color identifying apps to apps that identify just about everything to wearable technology to help. There’s even one group working on an update to the white using technology. If ever there were a time to live with sight loss today is it. I can hardly wait to see what else is coming down the pike.

      1. I’m sure there are thing ahead that we can’t even imagine. How exciting!

    2. I forgot to tell you I finished the Catling’s Bane and began the second book last night. Very good story.

      1. Thank you so much, Steph. I saw your review and just made the connection. Can’t even express what a lovely gift that is. I hope you continue to enjoy it! <3

      2. I like a book where I can get lost in the story. This one comes to life in such a pleasant and unexpected way and I feel like I know the characters.

  13. Wow, thank you for this post.

    1. You’re welcome!! Thank you for reading😊

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