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Focus on Video Magnifiers
By Kristine Dwyer, LSW, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)

Advancements in technology have now allowed those with low vision the opportunity to “see” again. The goal of producing high quality video magnifiers is to help those with low or diminishing vision to remain independent and active. They are mostly used for reading, but can also be used for writing, viewing maps or even filling a syringe. Video magnifiers are a step beyond the hand magnifier, which allows only a few words to be seen at a time vs. whole sentences, paragraphs or columns. Words or photos are magnified from two to 50 times their original size in comparison to the handheld magnifier that generally offers only 15 to 20 times magnification.

The video magnifier is its own television system (closed-circuit television – CCTV). The most common type is intended for use on a desktop or other work surface. Printed material, photographs or objects are placed under a camera and the magnified image is displayed onto a television screen or computer monitor. The user can then magnify and focus the image until it is large enough to be clearly seen. The entire unit can be controlled with a single button and can be customized to meet each person’s needs. Color and black and white viewers are both available; however, more specific information is received from the color viewer. An orange fruit, for example, can be clearly identified in color, yet in black and white it looks like a ball. Other vision enhancing products that are available are computer magnification software, hand-held pocket electronic magnifiers, and other products for accessible scanning and reading.

Magnifying machines may be the best kept secret for improving low vision. They have been on the market for over 20 years, yet are not widely sought after. One initial deterrent may be the price, but the benefits can far outweigh the cost. A new machine may cost from $1000 to $3000, but resale options are very positive. The price depends on the quality of the image, flexibility of the magnification, size of the screen, ease of use and extra features. In some states, county programs will contribute payment toward a video magnifier for clients, especially if it will help them remain independent at home. Payment support may also be attained through state agencies such as the State Services for the Blind, personal savings, bank loans, Lions Clubs or financial gifts from family
and relatives.

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