2001 Conference Proceedings

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Mallory Burton
Regional Coordinator, SET-BC
825 Conrad Street
Prince Rupert, B.C. V8J 2J8
(250) 624-6621

Teachers of the Visually Impaired are frequently asked to recommend typing programs for low vision students. This session, based on an inservice I offer for Vision Teachers and low vision students, provides tips for using Zoomtext with four popular keyboarding programs: Mavis Beacon, Mavis Beacon for Kids, All the Right Type, and Mario Teaches Typing. Since much of the session will be applicable to all of the programs, we will look closely at Mavis Beacon first. The following topics will be discussed and demonstrated wherever possible:

Generally, there have been few conflicts between the speech engine used by Zoomtext and the built-in voice and music features provided by the typing programs. However, in the case of problems, you may need to try the following:

Go to www.aisquared.com and click on support for a checklist of information to have ready when you call their tech support.

To check your video driver:

To check your sound card:

To access and print the contents of the ZCHDW.INI file:

In Windows Explorer, follow path c:/Program Files/ZoomText Xtra/Level 2 In the right-hand pane, open the ZXHD file and print Keyboard Commands Built Into the Typing Programs Many low vision students will be able to navigate with a mouse. However, moving the mouse may take time and/or disorient the student. It is worth looking at the documentation that came with the program to see whether any keyboards commands have been built into the program. In a timed writing situation, these keyboard commands will give the student the opportunity to stop the clock while he/she makes adjustments to the text display.


On Mavis Beacon's classroom page, the student can use the tab key instead of the mouse to cycle through various options, selecting his or her choice with the enter key.

To start any lesson, click the Start button with the mouse or hit the space bar.
To pause a lesson, click the Pause button or hit the escape key.

Text Display, Zoomtext Scrolling and Target Tool

A typing program may offer several options for displaying text in its User Settings. You will need to experiment with the student to discover which settings work best. Two students I work with actually prefer to look at the guide hands rather than the text line when using Mavis Beacon, something I would never have recommended but apparently works for them.


Mavis Beacon allows an option for typed text to be displayed below the current line (standard) or on top of the current line in purple (overstrike).

Mavis Beacon also allows a choice of font sizes. When experimenting with built-in font sizes, check how the text wraps in various types of lessons and games. When using the large font setting in Mavis Beacon and Zoomtext, the text wraps slightly to the right of the beginning of the line, obscuring the first few letters. In that case, it is better to set Mavis to small font and let Zoomtext accomplish the magnification.

In the Settings section, you can also turn word wrap on or off. At 2X magnification, some exercises at the beginner's level fit on one screen, and some require scrolling.

Some of the game formats provide for easier tracking, and you are given an option of setting the frequency for games to appear. You can also create custom lessons using the game formats.

This is how text appears at 2x, 4x, and 6x levels of magnification in each of the typing programs. Although Zoomtext will continue to track typed text in Word, it will not necessarily track on typed text in a typing program. Students will need a way to quickly jump to text that is not being tracked. Students can use the hot keys Alt+Right Arrow and Alt+Left Arrow to quickly move to the left and right without moving the mouse.

A faster way of jumping to preset locations can be accomplished by setting targets. To set a target, click on the target or talking target tool. A target symbol appears, and when you move to the desired location and left click, it sets up to 8 targets. Right click to exit the tool. The targets may be accessed quickly with the hot key combination Ctrl+Shift+1, Ctrl+Shift+2, etc. For 2x magnification in Mavis Beacon, it would probably be sufficient to set a target at the left and middle top screen for accessing drills and quizzes and at the bottom middle for accessing games.
Voice Feedback, Zoomtext Speak It Tool and Document Reader
Most of the typing programs provide voice feedback. However, be aware that in Mavis Beacon, the voice feedback does not match the written feedback printed on the screen. In that case, the Zoomtext Speak It Tool or Document Reader may be useful.

To use the Speak It Tool, use Alt+Shift+I and then highlight the text to be read.
To use the Document reader, use Ctrl+Shift+D which reads and puts text into 4X magnification.
However, be aware that the document reader does not always track correctly on the words it reads.

Lesson Formats and Custom Lessons

Most of the typing programs offer several different lesson formats including instruction, drills, timed drills, and games. Mavis Beacon has several dictation lessons which may be suitable for older students. Several programs allow you to import your own text for practice and to create your own custom lessons. This allows you to use the student's current spelling words, the Dolch Words, or words which reinforce phonics instruction or the teacher's current theme work for typing practice. Lessons in content areas created by other teachers may be downloaded from the Mavis Beacon website.


Custom lessons are created in the Media Center in Mavis Beacon. Here, you may type a name for your lesson, select a content area text or import your own text, and select a lesson format including games. You may also select time and accuracy targets.

To import text, type the text, complete with line returns, in an ordinary word processor. Spellcheck to ensure accuracy. If your student is having trouble with scrolling at higher levels of magnification, this provides an opportunity to create shorter lines of text. Save the text as ASCII text with line breaks. Then access your file through the import text button.

Several of the game formats eliminate scrolling problems for the student. This can be a real advantage in designing lessons or timed tests.

The Custom lessons you create can be accessed directly by the student using the Custom Lesson button on the main Mavis Beacon lesson screen.

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