5 Tricks For People Who Are Hyper Sensitive to Computer Screens

I have a rare neurological condition that means that when my eyes do work I feel pain, normally a mild pain but one that can grow out of control if I am not careful. Naturally, being a programmer where I stare at a computer screen all day may not be the best job for someone who feels pain upon focusing their eyes. But seriously, what job doesn't involve eye focusing? And more importantly, I am a self confessed programming obsessive, what would I do if I wasn't programming? I think my mind would shrivel up and die so rather than accept defeat I have found ways around it.

This is my list of tips and tricks that allow me to be a programmer.

Screen Magnifier

I use screen magnifier at 300% zoom with inverted colours.

 That is almost my entire screen with 300% magnification with inverted colours. Who needs to focus their eyes when characters are one inch high and so clear as this?

That is almost my entire screen with 300% magnification with inverted colours. Who needs to focus their eyes when characters are one inch high and so clear as this?

A Big Screen

I have a big 36 inch screen. I got a cheap one because hey, with 300% magnification each character is about an inch big. It's like I'm on a big 320 x 240 screen. I also invert the colours so who cares about colour fidelity? The only important thing is that it be big and have a matt finish.

Amber Sun Glasses

I wear special sun glasses that remove blue light which I have modified to allow 0% light from the sides and bottom. I find that I need all the light to come through the lenses, any light pollution from the sides reduces their effectiveness.

I buy all my sun glasses here http://www.noir-medical.com/
I am light sensitive so to go outside I wear the glasses with 2% amber filters but for the computer screen 2% is way too dark so I have 10% amber for using a computer screen.
Some light gets in from the sides and underneath so I buy some plastic foamy card (that's the best way I can describe it), some 3M tape and add some shielding to the sides and underneath. I have a fat nose and these glasses have a very narrow nose on them which caused me immense pain when wearing them without the modifications, but with the shielding it is the shielding itself that rests on my cheeks so no pain.

 See the shielding at the base and sides

See the shielding at the base and sides

A Cap

I wear a cap to block out light from ceiling lights directly entering my eyes. Less light pollution from the top, better quality of light and less pain.

Visual Studio and ClearType

I use Visual Studio for work and it uses ClearType to improve the look and feel of text. In other applications that is fine and is preferable for me but it just doesn't work in Visual Studio. The jump from 2010 with no ClearType to 2012 with ClearType was noticeable and I found my eyes wearing out much quicker and my general pain level a notch higher. 
Come to the rescue Text Sharp, an extension that disables ClearType. It returns code to its normal more blocky but clearer form and has taken my pain level down again. So I am very grateful to Sergey Vlasov for developing this great extension.
Get the extension here: https://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/7aafa2ea-8c54-4da8-922e-d26bf018514d

 

This all works great and while I still feel pain, I don't care because I can do the profession that is my calling. Paper based writing is the only real problem now and thankfully I don't need to read from paper for my job. There is also a side benefit of my colleagues thinking I'm some kind of mad genius. They can't imagine working with 300% magnification, seeing a small proportion of the screen at any time and they translate that to me being some kind of programmer super hero. Having a good reputation never hurts. But if they only saw me when I couldn't see a screen at all a few years ago when my condition was worse, programming through head phones makes 300% zoom look like a walk in the park. Seriously, I have so much respect for all the blind programmers out there, I did that for a while and it was hard and ultimately made me a better programmer, but that's for another post.