Low Vision Aids: The Desktop Magnifier

A desktop magnifier in its simplest definition is a magnifying device, which sits on a desktop, table, or sturdy flat surface. The complexity of the desktop magnifier ranges from arm mounted magnifying lens to camera imaging, displayed on a monitor. The simplest of desktop magnifiers is the arm mounted magnifying lens. This assistive device provides one level of magnification like that of a traditional magnifying glass. The advantages to this type of desktop magnifier is the simple, easy to use design and affordability. As a basic magnifier, its functions are limited and may not meet the specific low vision assistance needed.

The options for desktop magnifiers advance into electronic magnifiers and CCTV (closed circuit television) magnifiers. With these electronic desktop magnifiers, features and options increase often adding the ability to change the screen from color viewing to a black and white high-contrast viewing mode. Commonly comprised of a camera, mount, monitor, and viewing platform, the electronic desktop magnifier offers tremendous improvements in visual assistance from the basic magnifying lens and arm. The electronic desktop magnifier provides an easy viewing monitor that displays the material (book, photograph, prescription bottle, crossword puzzle, etc.) clearly, and enlarged to various magnification strengths. Some desktop magnifiers do not offer a wide variety of viewing and magnification strength options while others provide great flexibility in viewing modes, focus, magnification, and screen settings.

Combining the ease of mobility provided by the arm attached magnifying lens and the power and technology of the electronic magnifiers; some desktop magnifiers are designed with a flexible arm camera mount, which allow for increased control over viewing objects. In the situation of work and school, the flexible arm desktop magnifiers allow the individual to focus the aim of the camera at an object of distance (like a classroom whiteboard or a PowerPoint presentation) while the information is displayed clearly on the screen before the individual. This same type of desktop magnifier is useful during makeup application and self-grooming rituals. Some desktop magnifiers offer a detachable camera, increasing the versatility and function as the camera may be used at multiple workstations. Computer connectivity is perhaps a tremendous option available with certain desktop magnifiers as much of today’s daily tasks, communication, and work is preformed through the use of a computer.

With the many options in desktop magnifiers available, individuals with low vision have increasingly greater opportunities to utilize with high potential the remaining usable vision.