Assisting Vision: Low Vision

Low vision is a visual impairment which cannot be fully corrected with surgery or glasses. Sometimes, the visual impairment is hereditary but it can also be caused by eye injuries and diseases. Some symptoms include blurriness in vision, spots in the sight of vision, and loss of peripheral vision. Some of the more common low vision disorders are cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and retinitis pigmentosa.

This ADE will illustrate some of the issues persons with low vision experience with computers and the Internet. It consists of three interactive activities. In the first activity, we will present a simulation of websites through the eyes of someone with low vision. We will then present two tools that may help magnify content.

Before we begin, please watch the following videos:

Note: Mozilla Firefox and Adobe Shockwave are needed for this ADE. See the Technical Help Page for guidance on getting this technology.

Installation: This ADE requires specific software to be installed and will require administration access to do so. Installation of each piece of software will not conflict with each other. That is, the two tools can be used at the same time. A more detailed description of each installation will be discussed in each activity.

What to do:

  1. WebAIM has a simulation tool that demonstrates some of the issues experienced by people with low vision.

    1. This activity requires the use of Adobe Shockwave. Your web browser may try to install the application for you. In this case, allow the browser to do so. If it is unsuccessful and you do not have Adobe Shockwave installed, please retrieve it at the Adobe Shockwave Player website. This requires administration access. Restart your web browser after installation.
    2. Once Adobe Shockwave is installed, go to the WebAIM simulation page. You may see instructions to install Adobe Shockwave again. Follow through with the installation and the simulation will appear. Rest assured that this does not create multiple installations of Adobe Shockwave.
    3. Once the simulation has loaded, you will see an "Exit" button on the top left, "Instructions" button to the left, and a "Begin" button on the right. Select the "Instructions" button to learn about the simulation.
    4. Once on the Instructions page, select "Next" on the right of the screen to read about the tasks that you will be performing in the simulation.
    5. When you are finished reading the Instructions, select "Start the Simulation" at bottom of the screen.
    6. As you go through each of the tasks in the simulation, select the different vision types to see how websites are seen by people with those vision disorders.
    7. On the top left of the simulation page are the Instructions, Exit, and Help menus. Below that, you will see the vision types with radio buttons for selection. Below that is a window of a website that you are to perform the tasks on. There are scroll bars to look at the entire website. To the right of this window is the instructions for the task. To the right of the task instructions is the zoom scroll bar. It controls the zoom on the window of a website (which was on the left). Below the task instructions is the button "Finish Task". Click on it when you complete a task.
    8. The simulation will then ask you a question. After entering your answer, click the "Submit" button on the bottom right. The simulation will give you feedback on your answer. Click on the "Back to the Simulation" button to proceed to the next task.

  2. Virtual Magnifying Glass is similar to the Magnifier in Windows in the Operating System-Based Accessibility Settings and Services ADE. With Virtual Magnifying Glass, a window follows the mouse cursor that determines the content to be magnified.

    1. Download Virtual Magnifying Glass and install the downloaded file. This requires administration access.
    2. When the tool starts, a magnifier lens appears on the screen (following your mouse cursor) and an application icon appears in the system tray.
    3. Clicking anywhere on the screen will cause the magnifier window to disappear. You can make it reappear again by clicking on the tray icon.
    4. Explore the different settings and customizations the tool offers by right clicking on the application icon in the task bar. Information regarding the features can be found at the Getting Started and Shortcut Keys pages.
    5. Use Virtual Magnifying Glass to explore the environment and websites.
    6. To uninstall Virtual Magnifying Glass, exit the program from the system tray. Then go to the Virtual Magnifying Glass folder in the Start menu and choose Uninstall. Uninstall instructions are provided on the product website.

What to hand in:

Hand in a report that answers the following questions.

  1. What are some of the issues you discovered/learned from the simulation?
  2. What can we do to help deal with the issues from question 1?
  3. Describe your experience with the Virtual Magnifying Glass. Some topics to discuss may include (but not limited to):
    1. Window size
    2. Magnification size
    3. Viewing text
    4. View images
    5. Keyboard shortcuts
  4. Which magnifier tool would you prefer to use? Explain.
  5. Other than magnification tools, what tools may be useful to those with low vision?
  6. Feedback
    1. What were your expectations of this ADE?
    2. Did this ADE meet your expectations? Provide a rating between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means absolutely. Please explain your choice.
    3. Did you feel that the video(s) for this ADE was appropriate? Why or why not? Provide a rating between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means absolutely. Please explain your choice.
    4. Do you have any suggestions for other possible videos?
    5. Did you feel that the questions above got you to think about the real and serious issues regarding this ADE? Provide a rating between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means absolutely. Please explain your choice.
    6. If you have any suggestions on how to improve this ADE, please include it here.

Additional Information

This article presents web page layouts designed for people with low vision.