Mac OS X for the Visually Impaired
Cosmo Catalano, June 23, 2008
4 Comments

Big cursorOne of the most irritating signs of my advancing age has been the recent deterioration of my eyesight. Not that it’s especially poor (somewhere between 20/50 and 20/75), but it’s bad enough that without eyewear, I find myself squinting hard at the screen a couple of times a day.

Fortunately, OS X has some pretty neat tricks built into it for those who need a little extra help in the vision department. In the Keyboards & Mouse System Preferences panel, you can enable a screen zoom with ctrl+scroll wheel (or ctrl+two-fingered scroll on a laptop). The Universal Access panel also has a bunch of squint-relieving features, including the ability to make the cursor friggin’ huge.

3rd-party eye support isn’t bad, either. Despite being kinda ugly and uncreatively named, Computer Glasses allows you to zoom into a localized area, rather than blowing up the entire screen. And Switch Res X is a fantastic way to get at screen resolutions that the Displays preference panel doesn’t want you to see. It’s handy for nailing down the happy medium between pixel count and legibility, or for setting up your Mac with an HD TV.

Firefox 3 ScreenshotFor web browsing, the recently-released Firefox 3 does wonders for my fading eyesight. While most browsers use the “Apple+hyphen” and “Apple+equals sign” commands to decrease and increase text size, the new Firefox does them all one better by re-rendering the entire page—and all its independent elements, like movies, graphics, etc—in a slightly smaller or larger size. I think that’s pretty impressive.

I also really dig Noctournal. It’s a customizable screen inverter from the makers of Quicksilver that saves wear on the eyes, and can also make your batteries last a long, long time. Caffeine, while it does nothing for battery life, does a tremendous service by preventing Energy Saver from darkening/turning off your screen without warning. Greyish screens might save energy, but they are murder on the eyes.

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  • Hope

    I’m fairly high tech dead and although you’ve outlined some resources in your article, I have no clue how they would work. I have a friend who is elderly and has extremely poor vision and just spent a lot of money purchasing a MAC Pro. Is there anything that he can do short of increasing font size, which is of little help to be able to view pages and surf the internet?

    Thank you for any help you can provide.

  • Miche

    Thanks for this great resource. I’m trying to help my grandfather who has macular degeneration get back online, and though the Universal Access is a great help for people with low vision, it’s always good to have some different options.

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  • http://basil-salad.com Sasmito Adibowo

    Hi

    You might be interested to know that you can now read news feeds without reading.  News Anchor for Mac OS X presents you with a virtual news broadcast automatically generated from your RSS/ATOM feeds using text-to-speech technology.

    Further information is available at http://newsanchormac.com.  Press information is available at http://newsanchormac.com/pr – complemented with a press kit containing high-resolution screenshots.

    Full disclosure: I’m the developer of News Anchor – please contact me if you are interested in reviewing it and want an NFR license.

    Thanks.