Visual Access Using Zoom and Magnifier

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We recently had an opportunity to explore assistive technology (AT) supports to help a first grade student who has a visual impairment access the Internet. She already had some wonderful supports in place. Her teachers had set up the Display options on her PC with a lower screen resolution that increased the size of the screen elements, including desktop icons, folders, and font size. They had increased the default Zoom level for viewing web pages to a higher percentage and increased the text size. They had also adjusted the Mouse Properties, increasing the pointer size and setting it to display pointer trails.

Overall, these modifications worked well in helping her access her computer desktop and many webpages. However, her teachers noted that there are some web pages on which she still has difficulty seeing some of the graphics and text. They also noted that she has difficulty seeing the graphics and text in a web-based instructional reading and math software program that her class uses.

It turns out that this student did not need any specialized assistive technology software or hardware. The solutions that we found are built into the Windows accessibility features and the accessibility settings for the website browser.

Note: To view any of the graphics in this blog in a larger size, click on the graphics in the photo gallery at the end of the blog.


Zoom - Keyboard Shortcuts and Mouse Scroll Wheel

On a PC, you can quickly Zoom in and enlarge a web page view by holding down the Control (Ctrl) key on the keyboard and tapping the Plus (+) key. Each tap of the key increases the Zoom level by 25%. If you’ve zoomed in too closely, you can zoom out and decrease the size of the web page view by holding down the Control (Ctrl) key and tapping the Minus (-) key. To restore the zoom to 100%, press the Control (Ctrl) key and the Zero (0) key.

Note: for Mac users, press the Command - Option - Plus (+) keys to zoom in, and press the Command - Option - Minus (-) keys to zoom out.

If your mouse has a scroll wheel, you can increase or decrease the size of the web page view by holding down the Control or Command key, while moving the wheel forward (increase size) or backward (decrease size).

These features made it much easier for our student to independently adjust the zoom settings when needed to view particular web pages, using the Control (Ctrl) and Plus (+) keys or using the mouse scroll wheel.

When the page was magnified, she used the arrow keys on the keyboard to move to the top, bottom, and sides of the magnified screen. Using the arrows keys (pictured below) was easier for her than using the mouse to move the scroll bar.

Arrow keys

Now that we had found solutions for helping her visually access web pages, we looked at the web-based instructional reading and math software program that her first grade class uses. Unfortunately, the Zoom feature did not work on this program. So, we looked for another solution to make it easier for her to see the graphics and text in the program.

No worries! Windows Magnifier to the rescue. This feature is in the Windows Ease of Access Center__. There are three options for the Magnifier mode.


Windows Magnifier Options

  • Full screen mode magnifies the entire screen. The enlarged area of the screen can viewed by following the mouse movements (follow mouse cursor) or by using the Tab key or arrow keys (follow keyboard focus).
  • Lens mode works like a magnifying glass. It magnifies the portion of the screen around the mouse pointer, and moves wherever the mouse pointer moves. The size of the lens can be customized.
  • Docked mode magnifies a portion of the screen around the mouse pointer. The magnified area is displayed in a bar across the top of the screen, and the rest of the screen displays the desktop without magnification. It can also be set to follow the mouse cursor or keyboard focus.

Windows Magnifier Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Open Magnifier: Press the Windows logo key and the Plus (+) key.
  • Close Magnifier: Press the Windows logo key and the Escape (ESC) key.
  • The Magnifier can also be set to start automatically after logging onto the computer.

Our student found it easiest to use the Magnifier in full-screen mode with the option to follow the keyboard focus. The entire page was magnified and after a little practice she skillfully used the arrow keys to move around the page to view it. Success for access!

Windows Ease of Access Center offers a variety of options to customize settings for visual accessibility. The settings available in Make the computer easier to see:

Make the computer easier to see

In the Windows Ease of Access Center, you can increase the default mouse cursor size and select the cursor color to black, white, or inverting (dark cursor on light background and light cursor on dark background). These settings are available in Make the mouse easier to use:

Make the mouse easier to use

For more information on these accessibility features, check out the following online resources:

  • Magnifier in Windows 7:
  • Magnifier in Windows 8.1:
  • Accessibility in Windows 7:
  • Accessibility in Windows 8.1:
  • Accessibility in Max OS X:
  • Accessibility in Internet Explorer 9:
  • Accessibility in Internet Explorer 10:
  • Accessibility in Google Chrome (Low Vision):
  • Accessibility in Firefox:

Pictures and videos


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