Taking a Closer Look at Closed-Circuit Televisions

More than twenty million Americans over the age of forty have visual impairments. Many of these impairments result from diseases like macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma, while others result from health-related problems like diabetes. While visual impairments vary from blurred vision to complete loss of vision, most people with visual impairments do not have total vision loss. Instead, many of these people experience low vision: vision that does not enable them to perform many basic daily tasks and activities.

For individuals with low vision, corrective lenses probably do not provide enough help. However, with the aid of special assistive devices, the overall effectiveness of a person’s functional vision can be enhanced and improved. Necessary tasks like following recipes, looking up phone numbers, and signing checks become easier, and recreational activities like solving crossword puzzles and reading books become more enjoyable.


Closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) project enlarged images of printed documents, handwritten information, and other materials onto a monitor. Some CCTVs can magnify materials over 50 times the original size. With the assistance of a CCTV, a person with low vision can read newspapers, write letters, and use maps with ease. Before buying a CCTV, it is best to consult with a vision specialist for information on the type of CCTV that is right for you.

Stationary CCTVs with Monitors

Stationary CCTVs with monitors are best suited for in-home use. These consist of a camera, a moveable reading/writing table, and a monitor. A book or any other kind of reading material is placed onto the moveable table, and can be projected as either a positive (black image on white screen) or negative (white image on black screen) image onto the monitor. The contrast and magnification levels can then be adjusted. STationary CCTVs with monitors come either in-line or side-by-side. In-line stationary CCTVs require little table space because the screen is propped above the moveable table. Side-by-side CCTVs demand more space, but their design enables them to incorporate a larger screen, and therefore offers a higher magnification. Both are available in monochrome or full color.

Stationary CCTVs Without Monitors

While many stationary CCTVs come with a monitor, CCTVs without monitors are also available and connect to most televisions. Like other CCTVs, these are available in monochrome or full color.

Portable CCTVs

Portable CCTVs are lightweight, compact, and are therefore great for traveling. In general, portable CCTVs are battery-operated, hand-held electronic devices with rollers. The camera can be guided over material to produce a magnified image. Although most one-piece portable CCTVs come with a television adaptor, they contain a built-in electronic display screen and therefore do not need to be connected to a television monitor. However, due to technological limitations, only monochrome one piece portable CCTVs are available at this time. TV-dependent portable CCTVs do not contain built-in monitors, but they fit easily into a carry-along bag and connect to most televisions.

Further Information

The University at Buffalo’s Center for Assistive Technology offers a free information service, Project LINK, which links persons with disabilities to commercially available assistive products (via targeted direct mailings of product information). Based on the information respondents provide, Project LINK keeps them informed about new products they may find useful. For more information, write or call:

Project Link
Center for Assistive Technology
515 Kimball Tower
University at Buffalo
3435 Main STreet
Buffalo, NY 14214-9980
(800) 628-2281 (Voice/TTY)

You may also utilize the services of your state’s Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities — known as the Tech Act Program. This program, funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, aims to increase knowledge of assistive technology devices and services. To reach your state’s Tech Act Program, call (800) 949-4232. Your call will automatically be routed to the nearest Technical Assistance Center.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) offers a free library service. Branches of this service (three of which are located in New York State) loan recorded, Braille, and large print books, magazines, and music scores to persons with visual disabilities. You may contact NLS at:

1291 Taylor Street, NW
Washington, DC 20542
(202) 707-9275
(202) 707-5100
(202) 707-0712 (FAX)
(202) 707-0744 (TDD)

The National Association for the Visually Handicapped (NAVH) provides a free, mail-direct, large print library service, counseling and advice to persons with low vision and their families, educational programs, and much more. You can contact the NAVH at:

National Association for Visually Handicapped
22 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-3141

Retailers of CCTVs

LS&S Group
P.O. Box 673
Northbrook, IL 60065
(800) 468-4789

Mons International, Inc.
6595 Roswell Road #224
Atlanta, GA 30328
(800) 541-7903

Manufacturers of CCTVs

Humanware, Inc.
6245 King Road
Loomis, CA 95650
(800) 722-3393

Telesensory, Inc.
455 N. Bernardo Ave.
PO Box 7455
Mountain View, CA 94039
(800) 227-8418

PO Box 30
2 North William Street
Pearl River, NY 10956
(800) 421-7323