Psychophysics of reading. XIV. The page navigation problem in using magnifiers

Paul J. Beckmann, Gordon E. Legge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Most people with low vision require magnification to read. A magnifier's field of view often contains only a few letters at a time. Page navigation is the process by which the reader moves the magnifier from word to word, and from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line. Page navigation takes time and reduces reading speed. The major questions addressed in this paper are: (1) What role does page navigation play in limiting reading speed? and (2) Are the window width requirements for reading (number of characters in the field for a criterion performance level) increased by the need for page navigation? We measured the reading speeds of three normal-vision and seven low-vision subjects in two ways: with drifting-text requiring no page navigation, and with a closed-circuit TV (CCTV) magnifier which required page navigation. We built special hardware to record the location of the CCTV's magnified field in the text. These recordings were used to separate forward-reading time (left-to-right movement through the text) from retrace time (navigational movement). For normal-vision subjects, forward-reading and retrace times were about equal. For low-vision subjects, retrace times were shorter than forward-reading times, indicating that the forward-reading performance was limited by visual, not navigational, demands. The retrace time did have an impact, however, ranging from 17 to 50% of the overall time. The window requirements for reading with page navigation (CCTV) were larger than those for reading without page navigation (drifting-text). The difference was more than a factor of three for normal-vision subjects and close to a factor of two for low-vision subjects (10 characters for CCTV vs 5.2 characters for drifting-text for 85% of maximum reading speed).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3723-3733
Number of pages11
JournalVision Research
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank Carrie A. Rentschler for helping with data collection and analysis, Mark R. Menge for data analysis, Mervyn Bergman and Bob Witkofsky for designing and building the positional encoder for the CCTV table, and J. Stephen Mansfield for comments on drafts of this paper and many valuable suggestions. Preliminary results of this study were presented at the 1993 Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. This work was supported by NIH grant EY 02934 to Gordon E. Legge.


  • Low vision
  • Magnifier
  • Reading


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