Assistive Technology for People with Visual Disabilities

Tools that provide access to people who are blind or have low vision are available to help with a variety of tasks, including telephone use, cooking, self-care, and even carpentry. These tools usually provide output in at least one of three ways: audio, magnification, or braille.

Note: For information on computer access, see our articles on magnification, refreshable braille, and screen readers. For information on magnifying printed text, see our article on CCTVs.

Telephone Access

Large button telephones can make dialing easier for people with low vision. They may have additional features, such as audio amplification.

Caller ID information may be provided through a large display or speech output. These features may be built into a phone or available through an add-on unit.

For individuals who are both deaf and blind, the VTouch TTY provides a keyboard for input and a refreshable braille interface for output.

Notetaking Tools

Notetaking devices designed for people with visual disabilities may have braille output, speech output, or both. Some may have additional features, such as calendaring or Internet connectivity.

As mainstream devices become more accessible and more compatible with assistive technology out of the box, the need for specialized devices will decrease. For example, mobile Apple devices are compatible with over 30 refreshable braille displays via Bluetooth connectivity.

Talking Tools

A surprising number of common household items are available in models that include a speech output capability. These are usually available through specialty vendors, such as The Lighthouse Store, Independent Living Aids, Maxiaids, or LS&S.

Cooking Aids

Several talking cooking tools are available, including measuring cups, meat thermometers, and even microwaves. These may have braille or other tactile indicators as well.

Health Aids

Products in this category include mainstream health aids such as thermometers and scales, as well as specialty items such as glucose meters, medicine bottle label readers, and blood pressure monitors.

Carpentry and Electrical Aids

Devices available with speech output capabilities range from battery testers to shop tools. Logger Pro, a software program that works with various measuring devices, is compatible with the JAWS screen reader. The director of the Center for Accessible Technology wrote an article about carpentry tips for individuals with low vision.

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