Low Vision to Blind Computer Users Benefit from a Technology MarriageMarch 8th, 2016
By Maurie Hill
If you’ve been hibernating for the winter, you may not know that Ai Squared has a new flavor of ZoomText called ZoomText Fusion. ZoomText Magnifier and Magnifier/Reader have been mainstays for the visually impaired computer user for years. And Window-Eyes is a favorite screen reading software for those who cannot rely on any vision to use their computer. After merging a few years ago, it was time to leverage our technologies into a new product. ZoomText Fusion enables access to Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 for everyone on the low vision to blind continuum.
What are the benefits of having one software application to serve the entire vision spectrum? There are many answers to that, but for me personally, my retinal degenerative disease has led me to require a boost in screen narrating capabilities, and more efficient navigation without giving up the visual enhancements that ZoomText provides when and where I want them. At the time of my initial diagnosis 20 years ago, my best corrected vision was 20/60. I started using ZoomText Magnifier, then needed to lean on ZoomText Magnifier/Reader as my vision gradually degenerated. Now that even the big E on the eye chart is undiscernible when looking at it straight on, I am able to stay with the familiar look and sound of ZoomText, with ZoomText Fusion. Familiarity is a grand and powerful tool while Mother Nature’s visual cues diminish. In fact, I could have benefited from Fusion years ago.
So what have I gained with ZoomText Fusion? ZoomText Fusion breathes new life in its ability to efficiently navigate and narrate text on my screen. We’ll start with email. I start the AppReader tool with the same shortcut key I always have. The AppReader is not easily stumped by the different flavors of newsletters I receive.
For example, I receive email newsletters from my local library that have fun and educational events I’d like to attend. AppReader reads the content in the correct order no matter what fancy formatting is used. The additional navigation power of ZoomText Fusion allows me to skip to main headings (events) by simply pressing the letter “H”. When I hear an event of interest, I start AppReader to hear more. Or I can skip from link to link by typing the letter “L”. When I start AppReader again, it always starts reading, in my favorite voice, exactly where I left off.
And of course, this works on web pages as well. ZoomText Fusion’s Browse Mode feature is what allows for one letter navigation in web content for a myriad of web elements that any web page may present to you (i.e. buttons, links, checkboxes, and tables). The combination of AppReader and Browse Mode makes access to web content easy and efficient.
If you are already familiar with ZoomText’s AppReader tool, there are a few things you should know about how it behaves in ZoomText Fusion. You still start it using the same hotkey but when you press the enter key, it exits AppReader. And here is why. If you’re in a Word document, for example, you can immediately start editing the document where you stop AppReader. On a web page, pressing Enter will exit AppReader but enter Browse Mode, allowing you to execute one-letter navigation, or use the arrow keys to go where you need to go, highlighting the line that is being read. When you start AppReader again, it will start at your new location.
The new Page Navigation tool lists all the important elements of a page. You might call this the “finding that needle in a haystack” tool.
With ZoomText Fusion, I find myself spending a lot less time and visual energy handling my email every day. And I’m not daunted by unfamiliar web pages any more. I have the tools to find what I’m looking for no matter what the visual layout is. I listen to my email using no magnification, but with the visual cues set so I can see where I am on the page. I increase the magnification when I type emails just because I still like to visually confirm what I’m hearing as I type. On web pages, I use no magnification but follow the highlight to get the lay of the land and increase magnification when I want to view a photo.
The key is that ZoomText Fusion’s flexibility allows me to use my vision where and when I want to but know that I can do anything I need to do with my eyes closed, saving energy for a later time. And instead of reacting and adapting to vision loss after it presents itself, I am prepared for the day that my remaining centrally located cone receptors are not able or willing to read text anymore. Fusion takes the fear out of the uncertainty that tomorrow brings while using the computer to gain access to the world beyond the walls of my office.