by Lisa Howarth

SUBJECT AREA: Screen magnification and screen reading

PUBLISHER: Ai Squared www.aisquared.com

COST: $595

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Individuals with low vision

NOTABLE HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS: Pentium or higher processor, minimum of 32MB memory, Windows 95/98 or later, sound card, accelerated display card recommended.

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: ZoomText XTRA Level 2 is intended to make computers accessible to users who have visual impairments, particularly low vision. The screen magnification and screen reading features allow users to access word processing, database and spreadsheet programs, complete homework assignments, participate in class activities, and use the Internet.

DESCRIPTION: ZoomText XTRA Level 2 is a fully integrated screen magnification and screen reading program. Windows programs can be enlarged and/or spoken through speech synthesis. A control panel or tool bar provides a convenient user interface. When the mouse pointer is stationary over any icon found on the user interface, a description of the tool and its function is spoken. The following features can be found on the user interface:

• Screen magnification from 2X to 16X;

• Zoom-in tools for magnifying specific areas of the computer screen;

• Zoom window box that allow for horizontal and vertical split screens and moving windows to be viewed simultaneously at a chosen magnification level;

• Color, text and cursor icons to allow flexibility in choosing colors and sizes;

• DocReader, a speech program for reading windows, lines, or words. Text can be captured, reformatted and displayed according to the user’s preferences for layout, magnification, font and color;.

• Echo feature allowing letters of words to be spoken as the user types in a word processing document;.

• Targets, which are bull’s eye shapes, to help user locate items on the screen.


STRENGTHS: ZoomText XTRALevel 2 provides speech output during installation so that users who are visually impaired can independently install the program. The program can boot automatically at start-up. The tracking feature works with all Windows applications, as well as on the Internet. Split screens allow the user to see a thumbnail of the entire page while zooming in on selected areas to read. The program’s flexibility for customizing features is a real plus. Users may choose to use Hotkeys or keyboard commands instead of "point and click" to reduce eye fatigue.

WEAKNESSES: Provisions are not made for obtaining an owner’s manual in any adapted format other than large print. Braille and audio tapes are not available. ZoomText XTRA Level 2 is not compatible with many multimedia programs. While it does not interfere with their operation, it does not provide magnification for many games and activities.

SUMMARY: Combining screen magnification and screen reading in one program makes ZoomText XTRA Level 2 a powerful solution for individuals with low vision. The built-in DocReader™, is an innovative tool for reading text from any Windows application. With a few clicks the user can have DocReader automatically read through complete documents, including web pages and email. It supports all versions of Windows operating systems. The customization features in ZoomText XTRA Level 2 make it a useful tool for a population of users who have visual impairments.

Lisa Howarth is a graduate of the M.Ed. Program of the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.


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