Winning Solutions for Failing
Serving Our Community Since 1979
Closed Circuit Television
Everyday it seems that another new high-tech low vision aid comes on the market, and
many of these are wonderful and not as expensive as one would think. These high-tech
aids can offer significant help to people with low vision.
One of the more common and popular high-tech aids is the Closed Circuit Television,
also known as a CCTV or reading machine. CCTV's magnify reading material, medicine
bottles, photos, etc. and display the image on a TV screen or monitor. CCTV's can
also be used for writing, filing fingernails, and other tasks. CCTV's have a range
of magnification and are made in either black and white, or in color. Many
can be switched to reverse the image colors when desired. Some models
require you to focus the camera; others do it automatically.
There are many different kinds of CCTV's, each offering its own advantages:
Even devices not specifically designed as low vision aids can be helpful.
A digital camera or a cell phone or tablet computer with a built-in camera
can sometimes provide enough magnification for certain tasks. The
same is true of a computer connected to a camera or document scanner.
Apps are available for some smart phones and most computers to allow them to
convert text to speech. Remember, you needn't limit your toolbox to
only one or two tools!
- Free-standing Units -- Sometimes called "desktop" systems, these units
consist of a monitor above a flat platform. The
user places the material to be read on the platform and moves the platform around to read.
The material appears on the monitor magnified as much as the person
desires. Some models have the monitor built into the base unit. Others
have a separate monitor that can be placed atop the base unit; in this case,
it may be possible to substitute a different monitor or TV to meet your
Units with Text-to-Speech -- Like ordinary desktop CCTV systems, these units
display a magnified image. However, they also give you the option of
having the machine convert any text in the image to audible speech.
For some people, this is less tiring than reading visually.
Portable CCTV's -- Portable CCTV's can be plugged into any
television. One such unit is a camera on a stand, which
can be aimed at the material to be viewed. This kind has the
advantage that it can be used on objects some distance away, as well
as closer objects. Another device is
about the size of a computer mouse and is rolled across the material
to be read; the magnified image appears on the TV. Some models
allow a wireless connection between the mouse-like device and the TV.
Head-Worn CCTV's -- These units use the same mouse-like device, but the image
appears not on a TV but in a pair of goggles one wears.
Video Magnifiers -- These battery-powered devices combine the camera,
light source, and small video screen into a single handheld unit.
Legally blind people of limited means may be able to get financial assistance for
the purchase of a CCTV or other assistive device from the
Assistive Technology Fund
operated by the Association
of Blind Citizens.
The Low Vision Center accepts donations of used CCTV systems and sells the
donated units to help finance its operations. Follow this
link to a list of used CCTV systems currently
available, or call us at 301-951-4444 for more information.