Assistive Technology: Most Popular Articles
Mobile apps for the iPad are rapidly replacing dedicated devices for alternative & augmentative communication (AAC). In many cases, the iPad makes this technology less expensive and more accessible to persons whose physical and cognitive impairments make speech difficult.
Here are some of the top iPhone apps for blind users which, along with VoiceOver, make iOS devices accessible to persons who are visually impaired.
Zoom is a screen magnifier Apple has built into its Mac and iOS devices that enlarges what's displayed onscreen to make products more accessible to visually impaired users.
This National Braille Press booklet profiles 22 mobile apps especially useful to blind and visually impaired iPhone users.
This article on computers for blind and visually impaired students focuses on key technologies such as screen readers and screen magnification software.
This list features five iPad apps designed to help young people with autism and other developmental disabilities communication more effectively.
Project RAY and Odin Mobile offer America’s first accessible smartphone and full cell coverage designed specifically for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Smartpens are mini-recorders that sync spoken words with notes students write on special paper, enabling retrieval of any part of a lecture by tapping the pen’s tip on words written during class. Livescribe's Echo is among the most popular smart pens.
The Jitterbug J cell phone for seniors is easy to see, hear, and use, and provides classic comforts such as a dial tone and live operator assistance.
DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) is a set of standards for synchronizing text, audio, and navigation files to make books accessible in multiple formats.
Central Access Reader (CAR) is a free text-to-speech program that recognizes mathematical notations & symbols that most screen readers don't support.
This article presents 10 apps designed for people who are blind or visually impaired that work with Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Assistive technology professionals can enhance both their career and quality of service to persons with disabilities by attaining RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America) certification.
The National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped has 400,000+ audio, braille, and e-texts for readers with print disabilities.
EyeSight from SightTech is a mobile app that turns any Apple iOS device into a portable electronic magnifier for blind and visually impaired users.
Learning Ally is a free online audio book library where blind and learning disabled students can download DAISY files to their PC, MAC, or mobile device.
The most popular computer access solutions used by the blind and visually impaired, including screen readers, OCR products, screen magnifiers, and others.
Texthelp’s Read&Write GOLD is educational software designed to improve writing skills and reading comprehension among students with learning disabilities.
Talking Books are audiobooks the National Library Service for Blind and Physically Handicapped records to make books accessible to print disabled readers.
Dragon Dictate for Mac is easy to install. The speech recognition software walks you through the process of creating a user profile and training your voice. Within 20 minutes, you can write documents and control many of your Mac applications using voice commands alone.
The Audible app for Android and iOS devices gives blind and visually impaired readers access to 85,000+ digital audiobooks.
VoiceOver is a screen reader built into the operating system of all Apple OS X and iOS products that makes the machines accessible to blind and visually impaired users. VoiceOver reads text and app names aloud and provides audible cues to aid navigation.
The DynaVox Maestro is a portable, electronic speech generating device that enables persons with speech disabilities to communicate using text, symbols, and synthetic speech.
Turn on Closed Captions on your Windows Media Player to make videos more accessible, especially to those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who struggle to decipher what's being said.
Chad Udell of Float Mobile Learning feels tablets such as the iPad have fundamentally changed how we interact with the world and offer special needs students unprecedented access to assistive technology that enables them to learn.
Dragon Dictate for Mac 4 voice recognition software now enables the automatic transcription of spoken content from prerecorded audio files.
Apple's free iBooks app gives readers with vision- and learning disabilities another option for making content accessible. The iBookstore has many classics in e-book form users can download for free. Once loaded into their iOS device, a student can listen to the text using VoiceOver, enlarge it using Zoom, add highlights, notes, and bookmarks to the text.
Getting Started with the iPhone: An Introduction for Blind Users, by Anna Dresner and Dean Martineau is available in braille and ASCII text from National Braille Press.
The iCommunicator is an application that enables conversations between persons who are deaf and those with no hearing loss. The solution combines assistive technologies such as voice recognition, text to speech, and a database of sign language video clips that quickly translate spoken language and signs into text or speech for real-time conversations.
This article outlines accessibility features in Apple OS X and iOS devices for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The Victor Reader Stream plays e-Books and DAISY and audiobooks for the blind one can download for free from online sources such as Bookshare.
Co:Writer 6 helps learning disabled students write by predicting words and displaying choices in a window accessible through most writing applications.
The University of Athens has created an online directory where persons with disabilities can download free Windows software to make their PC more accessible.
Closed captions are all around us. We all see them, but few people know where they come from and how vital they are to making media accessible. This FAQ provides a succinct introduction to closed captioning technology.
Siri is a voice-activated “personal assistant” introduced with iPhone 4S that executes tasks and retrieves information based on spoken requests.
CommunicAide is customizable AAC app for iPad by Hope4Speech for persons with aphasia, apraxia, dementia, and Neurologically impaired speech.
Bookshare is a free online library of DAISY books that students with documented print disabilities can download as audio files.
Texthelp Systems' Fluency Tutor is an online application that enables students to improve their reading fluency by providing written passages appropriate to grade level students can listen to, practice, record, and be graded on. Fluency Tutor also has built-in quizzes, literacy tools such as a dictionary and translator, and graphing tools to track progress.
Video description narrates key visual elements blind viewers may miss to make broadcast and online media more accessible to viewers with visual impairments.
Apple's iPod touch gets less hype than the iPhone 4S and iPad 3, yet it provides nearly all the same features and accessibility found found on those iOS devices -- including web access and video chat -- for a fraction of the price.
This gallery highlights the wide range of devices one can use to play digital audiobooks.
SoundingBoard from AbleNet is an iOS app that enables non-verbal and speech-impaired persons, teachers, and caregivers to quickly create and link communication boards (consisting of symbols voiced via text-to-speech) to express needs, wants, and emotions in all settings and situations.
Windows mouse keys enable users with limited dexterity to move the pointer by pressing keys on the keyboard’s number pad.
The iLearnNEarn2 – School & Adult Series iPad app teaches 200 life skills to adults with autism using a curriculum developed by Eden Autism Services.
Enhanced Vision’s Amigo is a portable CCTV with 14x magnification, a “freeze frame” text capture feature, and a tilting screen for easier reading & writing.
AbleData is an online database containing over 40,000 assistive technology products as well as information on vendors, services, and organizations dedicated to helping persons with disabilities, rehabilitation professionals, and caregivers in the United States.
The SpeakEasy Reading Machine is a low-vision aid that reads scanned documents aloud, giving seniors private access to virtually all reading material.
The RNIB PenFriend Audio Labeler enables blind persons to organize objects by recording notes on corresponding scannable stickers for later replay.
FaceTime is video calling software from Apple that supports real-time video chatting between Mac OS X and iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
The Kindle app gives blind readers audio access to over 1 million Kindle books, as well as newspapers, magazines, textbooks, and PDFs on their iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.
DynaVox Mayer-Johnson is a leading developer of speech generating devices and other augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies.
Apple’s iOS 7 has enhanced the switch control capabilities, enabling persons with mobility impairments to access their entire device using switches.
The iPhone has changed expectations for how much assistive technology for blind persons should cost, says VIBUG president Amy Ruell in this 2011 interview.
Free or low-cost phones for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing is available through state Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Programs.
The VIP PDF-Reader from the Swiss National Association of and for the Blind makes PDF files accessible to readers who are blind and visually impaired.
Enhanced Vision's Pebble is a handheld electronic magnifier that users hold over things they wish to
The FCC's iCanConnect campaign seeks to educate the public on the range of free and low-cost communications products available to persons with vision and hear loss -- a provision of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA).
Video magnifiers enable people with vision loss to easily enlarge newspapers, bills, bank statements, pill bottles, and photographs as much as needed for reading, writing, and viewing.
The Read2Go mobile app for the Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch gives print-disabled readers access to Bookshare's online library of over 125,000 DAISY books. Readers can listen to the book being read, enlarge the text, read along as words are highlighted, or access text on a refreshable braille display.
Dragon Dictate 2.5 for Mac is voice recognition software that lets OS X and iOS users write and edit text with their voice.
Prentke-Romich Company (PRC) is a leading innovator of alternative and augmentative communication devices that facilitate full language development for persons with physical and cognitive impairments that make speech difficult.
The Voice Sense QWERTY is a notetaker for blind and visually impaired people who prefer a standard, as opposed to a braille keyboard. The Voice Sense features speech output, web connectivity, and Bluetooth compatibility and can play DAISY books and mp3 audio files.
The MotivAider clips to a belt or pocket like a phone pager and vibrates at preset intervals to help users maintain focus and develop or reinforce more productive habits. The device is designed to help modify behavior in students with learning disabilities or ADHD.
Orbit Research and the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) have developed the the Orion TI-84 Plus, the world’s first graphing calculator accessible to blind and visually impaired math students.
Closed captions are now required on all TV programs. Larry Goldberg of WGBH's Media Access Group helped develop the technology and standards that made this possible.
Louis Braille gave blind people the illuminating gift of literacy. But he was also a communications visionary, creating not just the world's first coding scheme to represent written language, but also its dot-matrix printer. Braille's achievements forever changed how blind people live and how all people perceive limitation and possibility.
Bank of America services for disabled customers include its screen-reader compatible website, talking ATMs, and bank statements in accessible formats.
Read&Write for Google, a suite of literacy tools from Texthelp, provides a powerful word prediction engine accessible when working with Google Docs.
The iPod touch has several built-in features that make it accessible to users who are blind or visually impaired. These include the VoiceOver screen reader, Zoom magnification, Voice Control, and a high-contrast white-on-black display option.
erem is a free mobile app for Android and iOS devices that enables users to listen to RSS feeds and receive notifications when keywords appear in articles from specified news sources.
Dragon Dictate 3 is Nuance Communications latest version of its voice recognition software that enables Mac users to create and edit documents, run applications, surf the web, and update social networks using one's voice.
Windows free On-Screen keyboard provides an alternative input method for users, especially those with mobility impairments, who are unable to use a standard keyboard.
Apple’s iOS 7 operating system features many enhancements that make iOS devices more accessible to persons with sensory and physical disabilities.
The soundAMP app sends amplified sound from an iOS device's built-in mic through a listener’s earbuds to create a high-quality hearing solution.
The Co:Writer for iOS app provides word prediction based on proper spelling and grammar as well as user-defined and topic-specific dictionaries.
Lingraphica develops augmentative and alternative communications technology -- notably speech generating devices -- designed to help persons with aphasia and related disorders limiting one's ability to speak or process language
VisionAssist is an iOS app from Slinkyware that turns one's iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch into an electronic video magnifier to help persons with visual impairments make text and images larger, clearer, and thus easier to see. The app provides most of the same functions and features found in portable CCTVs, such as Enhanced Vision's Pebble.
Some of the most life-changing applications of assistive technology are the devices and adaptations providing access to sports and recreation. This list looks at five products designed for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Fotobabble is a website and mobile app that enables blind and visually impaired people record audio captions to digital photos and share them instantly.
Enhanced Vision’s Pebble HD is a handheld video magnifier designed as a low-vision and reading aid that also stores 200 images users can recall and transfer to a PC.
Read&Write for Google Docs is a free Chrome extension that integrates many tools from Read&Write GOLD literacy software and enables real-time, cloud-based collaboration on Google documents in the Chrome web browser.
BookSense is a portable, multi-function audiobook player-recorder and document reader that supports many digital formats, including DAISY audio, MP3, WMA, and Audible books.BookSense also enables users to record memos, listen to music, and access both a clock and alarm. Page 3.
Braille is a language of raised dots that enables blind persons to read and write. Louis Braille developed the symbolic language in the 1820s. Despite the Internet, braille remains the primary means of literacy for over 180 million blind people around the world.
Umano is a free mobile app for iOS and Android that presents web articles on a wide range of topics read aloud by professional narrators.
BARD is a website of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) on which readers with qualifying print disabilities can download digital Talking Books and magazines to listen to on an NLS-supported audiobook player.
With VizWiz, blind iPhone users click a photo, ask a question out loud, and, within minutes, receive an answer from one of four online resources.
The American Printing House for the Blind provides free braille- and audiobooks and low-vision assistive devices to blind and visually impaired students.
Nuance has released Dargon NaturallySpeaking 12, the latest version of its popular voice recognition software that enables users to create content, control their PC, compose email, and browse the web using just their voice.
“iOS 7 Without the Eye” by Jonathan Mosen from National Braille Press explores all aspects of Apple’s operating system for its mobile devices.
ViA is an iOS app from the Braille Institute that aggregates information and reviews on apps designed for users who are blind or visually impaired.
An assistive technology assessment -- a collaborative process conducted by teachers and IEP teams -- helps identify which adaptive devices and technologies are most likely to help a student with a learning challenge achieve their goals.
iLearnNEarn is an education app -- a mobile version of Shanesh COLORS -- designed to teach children with autism and other learning disabilities.
Mind mapping applications enable users to brainstorm and organize ideas, add notes, images, links, and audio and to collaborate with others online.
Assistive technology is expensive, but persons with disabilities have many options for funding the solutions they need, as this article outlines.
The BrailleNote Apex BT 32 notetaker provides wireless access to the web, peripherals support -- including printers, embossers, and flash drives -- and serves as a terminal through which braille users can access and navigate their PC.
TV Speak routes digital TV to an environment most blind people know well—the PC—and provides spoken program guides and keyboard navigation.
For Daniel Saynuk, who is blind, the iPhone is not only accessible, but an integral part of daily life, performing key functions and providing information -- from the correct time to currency identification -- where and when he needs them.
The Association of Blind Citizens (ABC) maintains a fund to help qualified persons who are blind or visually impaired purchase adaptive equipment, including accessibility software, digital audiobook players, and desktop video magnifiers. ABC pays for one half of the retail price to grantees.
The popularity of speech recognition programs such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking raise both assistive technology's image and questions about its development. Will mainstreaming the technology erode accessibility for persons with disabilities? Nuance Communications senior product manager Colleen Hendry addresses this and related topics in the following interview.
The Transformer from Enhanced Vision is a portable video magnifier that can serve as a desktop and distance reading aid for visually impaired students.
The iPhone Tactile Screenshot Quick Reference Guide from National Braille Press provides diagrams with braille and large print annotations to orient blind users on various iPhone screens.
Vocational Rehabilitation provides persons with disabilities the career resources -- including education, on-the-job training, and access to assistive technology -- they need to achieve self-sufficiency.
Communications apps enable autistic and other non-verbal persons to generate speech by pressing images or typing words on their iOS device.
Digit-Eyes is an iOS app that scans and reads UPC and EAN bar codes and lets users make text and audio labels they can later read using their mobile device.
The VisioBook from BAUM Retec AG is a portable video magnifier that enables visually impaired people to enlarge text and images for reading and distance viewing.
Bookshare offers free online books in DAISY format. Free memberships enable print disabled students to download any of the 175,000 digital audiobooks.
National Braille Press offers many accessible reference guides and tutorials on iOS technology for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
SoundGecko is a free service that converts web articles into audio MP3 files, providing readers with print disabilities -- such as visual impairments or dyslexia -- a convenient way to make online content more accessible.
eBookMobi is an e-book reader for iOS devices designed to display Comic book and Manga files -- though it supports most electronic file formats, including PDF, RTF, ePub.
HumanWare's Trekker Breeze is a handheld GPS device for blind travelers that speaks information about their surroundings, including street names, upcoming intersections, and nearest address being passed.
In this interview, Dr. Therese Willkomm, director of Assistive Technology in New Hampshire (ATinNH), discusses her approach to ad hoc innovations that have made her the “MacGyver” of assistive technology.
goQ Software's wordQ+speakQ combines word prediction, voice recognition, and screen reading technology to help students who struggle with writing.
The Plustek BookReader V100 voice to text reading machine reads text aloud to give blind and visually impaired persons greater access to written material.
Amplified phones can help persons who are hard of hearing enjoy clearer conversations by increasing the volume on incoming calls. Most amplified phones also feature extra-loud ringers, talking caller ID, and duplex speakerphone capabilities.
iCam is a free magnification app for iOS devices designed by Clarix to help persons with low vision read text and view images more easily.
Apple's iPod touch has built-in accessibility features designed for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. The iTouch supports open and closed captions, mono audio, and FaceTime video chatting with other iOS devices.
Video description is becoming increasingly available in all forms of media. Description makes key visual elements accessible through narration and enables blind and visually impaired people to get more enjoyment out of movies, TV shows, and live attractions.
Zoomax Snow 7 HD is a portable video magnifier with a high-definition camera and 7 in. screen designed as a reading aid for visually impaired persons.
In this interview, Boston Assistive Technology Center director Peggy Dellea discusses Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s adaptive technology services.
The Mountbatten Braille Writer is an electronic braille typewriter and embosser that provides text-to-speech and connectivity with standard PCs, printers, and keyboards. Many teachers feel the Mountbatten can be an easier machine for young students to learn braille on than the more popular Perkins Brailler.
Praveen Gorakavi, an Indian inventor, has created a low-cost mechanical braillewriter to promote literacy among blind people in developing nations.
Traditional and web radio programs and podcasts give persons with disabilities -- especially low-vision listeners -- actionable information on adaptive solutions and assistive technology that can enhance independence and quality of life.
Speech generating devices (SGDs) give nonverbal persons tools to communicate, e.g. word & symbol libraries they can tap and voice via text to speech.
RoboBraille is a free online service that converts text documents into braille or audio files. Users
Alyssa Marinaccio recounts her first year as an Assistive Technology Specialist in the Office of Disability Services at Keene State College, including creation of an online resource for low-cost accessibility apps and an alternative text station.
The BrainPort V100 is a non-surgical vision enhancement device -- still in the prototype stage -- that converts video images into electrode patterns on an array affixed to the tongue. Users translate tactile data to the corresponding shapes and movement of objects in their environment.
Big Launcher is a large print Android interface for seniors and people with low vision and is designed to make mobile devices easier to see and use.
MouseGgrid in Nuance Dragon Dictate and NaturallySpeaking enable users to access any part of a web page by calling out numbers displayed on concentric grids. This navigation feature can help those with mobility impairments execute mouse commands using their voice.
NLS blank cartridges work like thumb drives. They connect to your computer via USB cable and enable you to transfer BARD content to listen to on an NLS Digital Talking Book player.
The Victor Reader Stream Library Edition supports most digital audio file formats, including DAISY, which is used to record structured, navigable audiobooks for readers who struggle to read standard print.
Once your microphone is configured and Dragon Dictate has learned how you speak, you're ready to dictate your first Mac documents and use your voice to control most OS X applications.
Learning Ally Audio is an mobile app that enables readers with print disabilities to access over 75,000 DAISY audiobooks -- including key texts for education levels -- on their iOS device
The following FAQ provides an introduction to the main accessibility features built into the Microsoft Windows operating system.
Dragon Notes is a voice recognition app for creating, organizing, and sharing dictated notes, lists, and ideas on a Windows 8 tablet or PC.
The Victor Reader Stream from HumanWare is a pocket-sized DAISY book and multimedia player designed to help persons with print disabilities -- including visual impairments and dyslexia -- to access and read texts in alternative formats.
Getting Started with the iPhone & iOS 7 (National Braille Press) guides blind and low-vision individuals on iPhone orientation, navigation, and use.
Video relay is a web-based service that enables persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired to communicate with hearing individuals using sign-language interpreters on video.
SpokenLayer enables users to listen to web content on their iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The app employs professional narration and text-to-speech to read articles aloud and aggregates content based on user preferences. SpokenLayer is designed for readers with visual and cognitive impairments, auditory learners, and those who enjoy on-the-go reading.
MBraille is an iOS app for an onscreen keyboard that lets blind users tweet and send text messages using contracted or uncontracted English braille.
The Optelec ClearView+ Speech is a desktop video magnifier featuring an interactive touchscreen and a “point and read” function enabling users to touch parts of documents to hear the text read aloud.
AppWriter is an iPad app that combines text-to-speech, word prediction, OCR scanning, and the Dyslexie-typeface to help persons with learning disabilities write more effectively.
Read&Write for Google is a suite of literacy tools designed to help struggling students improve skills and make Google Apps for Education more accessible.
The Eazy Reader Deluxe is low-vision reading aid, a digital camera that displays magnified images on a TV or LCD monitor.
InnerVoice is an AAC app that animates an autistic child’s photos so it speaks words and phrases to increase engagement and teach target skills.
The iPad Tactile Screenshot Quick References are raised representations of various iPad screens to show iPad users who are blind what appears where on their device.
HumanWare's SmartView 360 is a desktop video magnifier that enables low-vision users to enlarge text and images during close reading or distance viewing thanks to its adjustable Sony auto-focus digital camera.
The BARD Mobile app lets qualified National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped users play braille and Talking Books on their iOS device.
MegaTunes Player is a music player app for iOS that displays all songs, artists, playlists, compilations and Podcasts in large, high-contrast text.
iChat, built into Apple OS X, enables users to talk via text, voice, or video, making it an efficient communications option for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Blind and visually impaired persons can bank safely online using a screen reader to access and navigate each section of a bank’s website.