COMPUTER LAB ACCOMMODATIONS FOR LOW VISION STUDENTS
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 softwares that many students have in college, but I was still able to find lots of free resources that allowed me to use the school computers with my sighted peers. Here is a list of my computer lab accommodations for low vision that can be used by anyone. It’s worth noting that every school I have attended, including my college, all use Microsoft Windows laptop and desktop computers.
DISPLAY SCALING TO 150%
Display scaling allows for everything to be magnified on the screen, including display windows, text, images, icons, and similar. In elementary school, my teacher would adjust the settings on the computer so the display would be scaled to 150% of its original size. This teacher eventually taught me how to do this on my own so I could set it up on any computer. This can be done by going to display settings and going to the “scale and layout” section.
Since I had large print text accommodations written into my IEP for print materials, it only makes sense that I have the ability to enlarge text on the screen as well. In Windows 7 and Windows 8, users can adjust the font size of their computer by doing the following:
- Go to the settings menu
- Select the “ease of access center” option
- Select “make the computer easier to see”
- Under “make things on the screen larger,” select “change the size of text and icons”
- In Windows 8, you can choose to “adjust the size of the text only” and then choose the font size and font weight in the drop-down menus
Read more about accessibility features in Windows 10 here.
HIGH CONTRAST DISPLAY
My elementary school technology teacher noticed that I had trouble reading light colored text on a light colored background, but it wasn’t until middle school that I could explain what the problem was and how it could be fixed- I had trouble seeing items with poor contrast and needed a high contrast display for my computer. There are a few options available to increase contrast on a computer screen, including using an inverted color display and enabling a high-contrast theme on the computer. Read more about what I wish my elementary school teachers knew about my low vision here.
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. Read more about my high school mentorship program here.
LARGE MOUSE POINTER
Having a large mouse pointer helps me track items on the screen more easily and keeps me from having to put my face inches from the screen to try and figure out what I’m selecting. This is a very easy setting to enable- just go to cursor and pointer size settings in the system settings section and choose the one that best fits your needs. Some people like the color changing pointer, but I personally find it annoying.
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. I also used Windows Magnifier in other classes as needed. Read more about my Microsoft Office Specialist certifications here.
BLUE LIGHT FILTER
I develop eye strain very easily, even though I wear tinted glasses- read more about why I wear tinted glasses here. As a result, I use a blue light filter in my web browser and on my computer display. I like using the “night light” mode in Windows 10 to decrease color temperature, though there are also browser extensions and screen filters that can help achieve the same effect. Read more about reducing eye strain with technology here.
HIGH CONTRAST KEYBOARD
My current keyboard features bright yellow keys with large black letters so that I can easily see the keyboard. I also bring my keyboard to classes where I need to type a lot because I find the key layout to be perfect for my needs. There are lots of high-contrast keyboards and keyboard stickers that can help make letters and numbers easy to see. Read more about keyboard accommodations and vision impairment here.
SIMPLIFIED READING DISPLAY
Since my vision fluctuates a lot, there are times when I have trouble focusing my eyes to read a line of text. One of the educational technology specialists at my high school recommended that I try using a simplified reading display for text to see if that helped. I was excited to see that it helped a lot and I was able to easily follow text on the screen. I don’t remember the name of the app I used back in high school, though I have a roundup of my favorite ways to simplify reading with technology for free- read more about simplified reading apps here.
EXTENDED TIME FOR ASSIGNMENTS
This isn’t technically a technology accommodation, but it is definitely helpful nonetheless. Sometimes, technology will randomly stop working or users will need to adjust accessibility settings while working on an assignment, which can take away from class time. I have found that receiving time and a half extended time was sufficient for me to get work done, but some students may feel more comfortable requesting double time or triple time when working on the computer. I think it’s better to ask for more time since students don’t have to use all of the time allotted, just the time they need. I received this accommodation on my SAT and ACT tests- read more about the SAT and vision impairment here, and read more about the ACT and vision impairment here.
One of the best things a technology teacher can do is teach students to document their preferred settings and show them how to enable them- read more about technology skills every college student needs here. By creating computer lab accommodations for students with vision impairment, students can be technologically literate and prepared to use technology in their home and workplace.