AT for low vision and blindness

What is Adaptive Technology?

Adaptive Technology (or assistive technology) is the name for products which help people who cannot use regular versions of products, primarily people with physical disabilities such as limitations to vision, hearing, and mobility. In this section you can learn about the basic kinds of Adaptive Technology that might be used by someone with a low vision or blindness.

 CCTVs or Video Magnifiers

This is a magnifying aid for people with who have eye problems but still have some sight. Printed material and objects can be placed under a camera and the magnified image is displayed on a television screen or computer monitor. They are mostly used for reading, but can also be used for writing and other activities such as sewing.  There are both desktop systems and portable systems available. Examples include;

  • Prodigy LCD Desktop CCTV
  • Optelec Clearview
  • LVI Magnilink CCTV
  • iLoViewPortable CCTV

Screen Magnification Software

This software can magnify the text, menus and icons on the computer screen up to 32 times. Because screen magnification software increases the size of the image displayed on the screen, only a portion of the original screen image can be seen at one time. Normally the magnification will automatically follow the area of attention, for example the cursor. Because of the restriction on the amount of viewable area of the screen, a large monitor is usually used in conjunction with screen magnification software to effectively increase the viewable area on the screen. Examples include;

  • ZoomText Magnifier/Screen Reader

Large Print Keyboards

Large print keyboards provide an easy to see computer keyboard with extra large key legends for greater visibility and efficiency. Examples include;

  • ZoomText Large Print Keyboard
  • Keys U See Keyboard

Screen Reading Software

A screen reading program converts displayed text on the computer screen into audible information through the computers soundcard. Common features include the ability to speak the full screen, a user defined area of the screen, a line, a word, individual letters or the phonetic equivalent of a letter and punctuation. A screen reader allows menus, dialog boxes, tool tips and system messages to be read back. A screen reader is designed to give a blind person full access to the computer. Examples include;

  • Window-Eyes
  • Dolphin Supernova

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software

This software is used in conjunction with a PC and scanner to copy printed text to the computer and hold it electronically so it can be read back or magnified for the user.  Examples include;

  • K1000 Scanning Software

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Portable and Standalone

A portable or standalone OCR device is one unit that integrates a camera, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software and speech software.  These devices scan and read significantly faster than using any flatbed scanners. They are light weight and portable. Examples include;

  • ABISee EyePal
  • Readit Wand

Talking Reading Machine

A Standalone Reading Machine is one unit that integrates a scanner or camera, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software and speech software. The printed document can then be scanned and read by the same machine. This option is most popular with those people who don’t have a PC or don’t want to learn to use a computer. Some of these machines allow document storage. Examples include;

  • ScannaR
  • ABISee EyePal Solo (or Solo LV)

Talking Book Players

Traditionally, Talking Books were played on records, and then, as the technology changed, on cassette tapes on specially adapted machines. Now Talking Books are in the process of becoming digital files on CDs or another device. These books allow users to skip directly to specific places in the book, insert bookmarks, and more.   There are two types of players for reading digital Talking Books—stand-alone players and software players that are used on computers. The stand-alone machines are the easiest to learn to use, and they can be small and portable. Examples include;

  • Victor Reader Stream
  • BookSense

Personal Data Assistant

A personal data assistant is a small handheld device that records personal notes, conversations, meetings, or data such as telephone numbers or a shopping list.

  • Olympus Digital Recorder

Notetakers

A portable computer with a Braille or QWERTY keyboard that gives speech feedback and allows the user to take notes, make appointments and some are email and internet enabled. They can also have an integrated Braille display. Examples include;

  • BrailleNote
  • BrailleSense

GPS Solutions

With a receiver about the size of a small cell phone, a personal GPS utilizes the GPS network to pinpoint a traveler’s position on earth and nearby points of interest and then directs them to their destination with recorded voice commands. Visually impaired people can encode points of interest such as local restaurants or any other location, into the computer’s database. Afterward, they can punch keys on the unit’s keyboard to direct themselves to a specific point of interest. Examples include;

  • Trekker Breeze
  • Kapten GPS

Braille Display

An electronic Braille display is a tactile device that is placed under a conventional computer keyboard, or laptop keyboard and enables the user to read the contents of the computer screen by touch in Braille. Each cell has eight pins made of metal or nylon, which are electronically controlled to move up and down, to display a Braille version of characters that appear on the computer screen.  Examples include;

  • Alva BC640
  • Brailliant
  • BrailleConnect

Braille Embosser or Braille Printer

Embossers print Braille output from a computer by punching dots onto paper. They connect to the computer in the same way as text printers and can also be connected to notetakers and other devices with a serial or parallel port. Used in conjunction with the embosser is Braille translation software that translates printed text into Braille.  Examples include;

  • Index Everest
  • Perkins Brailler

Braille Literacy

Literacy is the foundation of language, learning and a successful life. For people who are blind or vision impaired, literacy through Braille is the key to the world of ideas, literature and written communication. Adaptive technology devices are essential literacy tools for students who read and write in Braille. They are used from the beginning of Braille literacy and right throughout life. Examples include;

  • Mountbatten

Braille Translation

Braille translation software is a program that converts computer text, such as that created in a word processor, to Braille code. This code can then be passed to a Braille embosser (Braille printer) for embossing on paper. Examples include;

  • Duxbury
* Please note that the product examples used here are not a comprehensive list of products for each category.

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