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OPL Improves Computer Accessibility

New software has just been installed at each of NOPL's three libraries to make computers accessible to those with visual impairments. A program called Zoom-Text magnifies the computer screen at increments ranging from 1.25x to 36x, enhancing the readability for those with low vision, those who suffer eye fatigue when reading screens, or those who forget their glasses at home. Users can adjust the sizes and colors of all items on the screen to suit their needs precisely. Furthermore, the program has a speech feature for audio reinforcement, which is helpful again for those with vision trouble, but which has also proven helpful to people who have difficulty reading, e.g. dyslexia.

In addition to Zoom-Text, the library installed a program called Jaws, which is a screen-reader for those who have no sight at all. Both programs make use of keyboard navigation, meaning users move their cursors around the screen by pressing combinations of keyboard keys. Training materials are available on site in a number of formats, and all staff are undergoing training in order to serve individuals' learning preferences.

The new software should be able to accommodate any degree of eye problem, creating options for many who may have given up on using email, reading Web content, or participating in online social networks. Zoom-Text and Jaws work with all major applications, including Internet Explorer and the Microsoft Office suite. Its potential impact can hardly be overstated: the software is capable of granting independent use of computers to people who have previously either had to rely on a sighted helper or had to forego use of computers altogether. In the Information Age, people without access to computers live in a different world than people with access, and the library is thrilled to provide increased access for all who want it.

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