Mears Irlen Syndrome / Visual Stress (MISVis), also known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS), describes distortions in vision sometimes experienced by people with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and others. Many people describe seeing distorted and moving text which can significantly affect comfort, efficiency and comprehension in reading tasks.
Many people who experience these issues find that placing coloured overlays onto the printed reading material helps alleviate discomfort and can improve reading efficiency and comprehension. Some people who experience headaches and other forms of visual discomfort have also found improvements from using these overlays.
Software solutions can achieve the same effect on the computer screen. Here are some options that you can try, many of which are free.
- Many modern screens can switch between a range of pre-set modes which are designed to best display movies or text. Switching modes changes the brightness and contrast of the screen which can result in reduced discomfort and easier reading. Look for the controls on the front of your computer screen.
- It’s very easy to change the background and text colour of pages in Microsoft Word. To change the background go to the Design ribbon and choose a colour from within the Page Background drop-down. To change the text colour go to the Home ribbon and right-click on the Normal style. Select Modify from the menu and click on the Format button in the dialog that appears. In the new window you can change the font colour to affect the entire document. Be warned though that the colour combination is saved in the document and this will show when printed or shared with others.
- ssOverlay is simple freeware from FX Software. They are a small software company that offer a range of free software to help disabled people access computers. ssOverlay is really easy to use and best simulates placing an overlay of coloured acetate directly on the screen. Rather than allowing you to choose separate colours for text and backgrounds it instead uses a single colour to ‘wash’ the whole screen. It is easy to vary the intensity of the effect but as it covers the whole screen it does affect pictures and videos as well as text and page backgrounds. It affects just the screen you are using and works with any app. You can download ssOverlay for free.
- Screen Tinter Lite has long been a popular choice as it is easy to use and is provided for free. It is no longer available from the orginal company it and instead they have replaced it with a new paid-for version called Virtual Overlay. The original free Screen Tinter Lite is still available for download but may not work well on newer computers. It affects the colours in Microsoft Word, Adobe Reader and Internet Browsers and does not affect videos or pictures. When using Screen Tinter Lite the colour combination only affects the computer being used and is not saved in the document so you can more easily share and print your documents.
- You can also use the Windows accessibility / display options to directly modify elements of the Windows display to match preferred colours. Check the visual accessibility section of this website for guides on how to get this done.
Choosing the right colour combination
Many people play around with the colour schemes using the above software to find a combination that is comfortable for them. If you feel that you would like help you can visit a specialist for a formal assessment or visit an online testing website such as www.tintmyscreen.com.
Featured image: flickr/globochem3x1minus1