Winning Solutions for Failing Sight
Serving Our Community Since 1979

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)

There are many high-tech low vision aids available today that can be helpful for people with vision loss.

One of the more common and popular high-tech aids is the Closed Circuit Television, also known as a CCTV or video magnifier. 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. Some can read the text presented as well! 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:

  • 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 needs.

  • 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.

  • Handheld Video Magnifiers -- These battery-powered devices combine the camera, light source, and small video screen into a single handheld unit.

  • Tablet-Based Systems -- These systems start with a tablet computer and add specialized software and hardware, such as a folding stand, to allow the tablet to be easily used as a portable desktop CCTV.  They combine all the features of a tablet computer with the specialized video magnification features.  They generally include OCR and text-to-speech, too.
Even devices not specifically designed as low vision aids can be helpful.  A smartphone has built in magnification and there are apps you can download for stronger magnification if stock settings are not enough.  Apps are available for most smart phones and computers to allow them to convert text to speech.  The same is true of a computer connected to a camera or document scanner.  Remember, you needn't limit your toolbox to only one or two tools!

Individuals who are legally blind may be able to get financial assistance for the purchase of a CCTV or other assistive device. Contact your local Department of Disability Services to learn more.

The Low Vision Center accepts donations of used CCTV systems and sells the donated units to help finance its operations.  There is also a Facebook group you can join to buy and sell your devices with others in need. Please note, we do not sponsor this site and all sales are between the two parties involved.

You are welcome to make an appointment to come try any system we have available, whether or not you want to buy it from us.