ScreenShades and WindowShades

Written by Michael Woodman

If you are aware that you have a specific learning difference (SpLD), such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, you may also be familiar with the terms ‘visual stress’, ‘scotopic sensitivity’ or ‘Irlen syndrome’. These are all phrases that describe the experience of finding black text on a white background difficult to look at for more than a short period of time.

If you have made a DSA application, you might find that you are offered a screening for ‘visual stress’, and that recommendations might include using a coloured overlay, (a plastic, tinted sheet), when reading black ink on white paper, or even having a pair of prescription glasses tinted a specific colour in order to improve reading speed and comprehension.

Some text-to-speech programs, including ClaroView and Read&Write come come with built in screen tinting applications to make it easier to read web pages, word documents, and pdf files that might be formatted using black text on a white background. You can also change the background colour for some programs, including Word.

However, if you are looking for a free screen tinting program, both Screen Shades for Mac and WindowShades for PC work very well.

  • Both programs have an easy to use interface – simply choose a colour and adjust the hue and opacity (i.e. how transparent the tint is), until your computer screen is easier to read.
  • When you have chosen a colour that works for you, both programs minimise to an unobtrusive size so that you can get on with your reading.
  • Both programs also feature keyboard shortcuts for turning the ‘virtual overlay’ on and off.
  • If you own a coloured overlay or ‘Irlen filter’, try to adjust the settings of either app so that the screen tint is as close as possible to your plastic sheet.