Assistive Technology: Most Popular Articles
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.
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.
This article on computers for blind and visually impaired students focuses on key technologies such as screen readers and screen magnification software.
This National Braille Press booklet profiles 22 mobile apps especially useful to blind and visually impaired iPhone users.
This list features five iPad apps designed to help young people with autism and other developmental disabilities communication more effectively.
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 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.
DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) is a set of standards for synchronizing text, audio, and navigation files to make books accessible in multiple formats.
Talking Books are audiobooks the National Library Service for Blind and Physically Handicapped records to make books accessible to print disabled readers.
Avaz is a picture-based augmentative communication app for Android & iOS that helps nonverbal children develop language and communication skills.
The most popular computer access solutions used by the blind and visually impaired, including screen readers, OCR products, screen magnifiers, and others.
The University of Athens has created an online directory where persons with disabilities can download free Windows software to make their PC more accessible.
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.
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.
Enhanced Vision’s Pebble is a portable video magnifier that enlarges from 2x to 10x and has a
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.
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.
Dragon Dictate 2.5 for Mac is voice recognition software that lets OS X and iOS users write and edit text with their voice.
The DynaVox Maestro is a portable, electronic speech generating device that enables persons with speech disabilities to communicate using text, symbols, and synthetic speech.
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.
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.
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 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).
Free or low-cost phones for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing is available through state Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Programs.
Bank of America services for disabled customers include its screen-reader compatible website, talking ATMs, and bank statements in accessible formats.
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.
CareerConnect is a free iOS app that lets blind & visually impaired persons access the American Foundation for the Blind’s online employment resource.
The iPad is especially accessible to blind & visually impaired students and -- says Tara Mason -- is a remarkably robust, low-cost, low-vision aid.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Assistive technology is expensive, but persons with disabilities have many options for funding the solutions they need, as this article outlines.
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.
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.
This gallery highlights the wide range of devices one can use to play digital audiobooks.
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.
The American Sign Language (ASL) Dictionary App for iOS and Android devices provides video definitions for over 5,200 signed words in a searchable list.
iLearnNEarn is an education app -- a mobile version of Shanesh COLORS -- designed to teach children with autism and other learning disabilities.
Co:Writer helps learning disabled students write by predicting words and displaying choices in a window accessible through most writing applications.
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.
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.
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.
This article outlines accessibility features in Apple OS X and iOS devices for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this interview, Suzanne Robitaille, founder of abledbody.com and author of The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology & Devices, discusses recent advances in communications technology for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 supports built-in PC mics and expands voice recognition to web applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Outlook, and Chrome.
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 ODIN VI is a talking mobile phone designed to be fully accessible to persons who blind or visually impaired, including seniors.
DynaVox Mayer-Johnson is a leading developer of speech generating devices and other augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies.
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.
Paratransit services provide accessible, low-cost transportation to persons with disabilities in many cities that have fixed-route bus systems.
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.
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.
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.
RxmindMe is a free iOS app that enables users to enter and track prescription information and set and receive alerts when it's time to take medication. The app also tracks the number of remaining pills and provides a medication database.
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.
Speech generating devices (SGDs) give nonverbal persons tools to communicate, e.g. word & symbol libraries they can tap and voice via text to speech.
Since 1927, National Braille Press has made information accessible to blind readers by producing braille books, pamphlets and periodicals. Through its many programs, NBP champions braille literacy and the development and improvement of assistive that increases tactile literacy and promotes the use of braille.
The iPhone has changed expectations for how much assistive technology for blind persons should cost, says VIBUG president Amy Ruell in this 2011 interview.
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.
Bookshare is a free online library of DAISY books that students with documented print disabilities can download as audio files.
ZoomReader is a reading app developed by Ai Squared that enables visually impaired iOS users to magnify text, scan and extract text from images and hear it read aloud, and email or copy text they wish to share.
Texthelp’s Read&Write GOLD is educational software designed to improve writing skills and reading comprehension among students with learning disabilities.
RoboBraille is a free online service that converts text documents into braille or audio files. Users
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.
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.
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.
Mac OS X Snow Leopard is the seventh upgrade of Apple's operating system used in its servers and Macintosh computers.
The American Printing House for the Blind provides free braille- and audiobooks and low-vision assistive devices to blind and visually impaired students.
The Eazy Reader Deluxe is low-vision reading aid, a digital camera that displays magnified images on a TV or LCD monitor.
Apple’s iOS 7 has enhanced the switch control capabilities, enabling persons with mobility impairments to access their entire device using switches.
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.
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.
Texthelp’s Fluency Tutor for Google is an assessment app enabling teachers to assign and score reading passages to monitor each student’s progress.
Video description guidelines from the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) make educational materials accessible to visually impaired students.
PDFpen enables users to edit, annotate, and combine Portable Document Format (PDF) files, providing readers with print disabilities and teachers greater access and flexibility working with electronic texts used in education.
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.
“iOS 7 Without the Eye” by Jonathan Mosen from National Braille Press explores all aspects of Apple’s operating system for its mobile devices.
The Transformer from Enhanced Vision is a portable video magnifier that can serve as a desktop and distance reading aid for visually impaired students.
Blind and visually impaired persons can bank safely online using a screen reader to access and navigate each section of a bank’s website.
The Hadley School for the Blind offers free online courses to help students and aspiring professionals hone their screen reading, Internet, word processing, and Microsoft Excel skills.
Assistive technology that makes recreation accessible can be life changing. One bike ride can make a disabled child feel more normal and connected than any app, teaching approach, or audiobook. This article looks at six.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 SpeakEasy is a simple, standalone reading machine that reads aloud the text from any scanned document using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and text-to-speech technology. It provides an immediate reading solution for seniors and those who are blind or visually impaired. Page 2.
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.
In this About Assistive Technology article, Shannon Kelly of Actuate Corporation discusses why organizations must make digital content accessible to all.
Windows mouse keys enable users with limited dexterity to move the pointer by pressing keys on the keyboard’s number pad.
iReadWrite is an iPad app designed for students with learning disabilities that combines reading and writing technologies, including text-to-speech, word prediction, spell check, and a picture dictionary.
RocketKeys is an AAC app for iPad that enables users to customize keyboards to type faster and generate spontaneous speech more efficiently.
The i.d. mate OMNI talking barcode scanner enables blind shoppers to hear details on over 2.3 million products in its database.
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.
Read&Write for Google, a suite of literacy tools from Texthelp, provides a powerful word prediction engine accessible when working with Google Docs.
The UltraCane is a mobility aid for blind persons that uses ultrasound waves to echolocate potential obstacles -- at both ground and eye level -- that appearing in one’s path as they walk.
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.
The RNIB PenFriend Audio Labeler enables blind persons to organize objects by recording notes on corresponding scannable stickers for later replay.
The Braille Sense U2 Mini (HIMS) is a compact braille device with a keyboard, braille display, and numerous communications and media file functions.
CommunicAide is customizable AAC app for iPad by Hope4Speech for persons with aphasia, apraxia, dementia, and Neurologically impaired speech.
Project Endeavor seeks to narrow the digital divide among persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and to increase social and economic opportunities by providing free videophones and cheaper broadband service.
ZoomText Mac, developed by Ai Squared, is screen magnification software for the Mac (OS X 10.7 and up). The program also provides enhancement tools to adjust contrast, maintain clarity to enlarged text (font smoothing), and make the cursor and mouse pointer easier to locate.
Beep kickball is an accessible form of the popular playground game for blind players that uses a ball with an internal beeping mechanism.
No mobile app or device can raise braille dots, but that doesn't mean blind people can't use braille to run their smart phone or tablet. The BraillePen 12 and BraillePen Slim are Bluetooth braille keyboards that give users hands-free access to and control over popular Apple iOS, Nokia, and Windows Mobile devices.
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.
Learning Ally awards annual scholarships to learning disabled high school seniors and soon-to-be college graduates who are blind or visually impaired.
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.
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 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.
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.
The Tobii I-Series are speech generating devices that facilitate computer access, environmental control, speech, and long distance communication.
Purple Communications gives deaf callers telecom access through its video relay service, sign language interpreters, and public placement of videophones.
Window-Eyes is GW Micro’s screen reader that converts commands into synthetic speech to make Windows applications more accessible to blind PC users.
Mind mapping applications enable users to brainstorm and organize ideas, add notes, images, links, and audio and to collaborate with others online.
The Insignia Narrator Advanced HD Radio has voice activated controls and is designed to enable blind and visually impaired people to more easily access radio reading services in their area.
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.
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.
TV Speak routes digital TV to an environment most blind people know well—the PC—and provides spoken program guides and keyboard navigation.
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 Plustek BookReader V100 voice to text reading machine reads text aloud to give blind and visually impaired persons greater access to written material.
The ODIN VI Talking Mobile Phones comes preinstalled with a battery (a charging stand and USB cables are included) and an SIM card.
sitecues is an SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that lets organizations deploy reading tools and magnification to make websites more accessible.
Spacial SAM VIBE is automation software for creating web radio stations. The program enables broadcasters to upload and manage large music libraries and set schedules. SAM VIBE is also compatible with screen readers to make it more accessible to blind and visually impaired persons.
Music Zoom is an iPad app that integrates with a foot switch to let visually impaired musicians scroll through enlarged sheet music as they play.
Dragon Dictate for Mac 4 voice recognition software now enables the automatic transcription of spoken content from prerecorded audio files.
goQ Software's wordQ+speakQ combines word prediction, voice recognition, and screen reading technology to help students who struggle with writing.
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.
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
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.
Bookshare offers free online books in DAISY format. Free memberships enable print disabled students to download any of the 175,000 digital audiobooks.
Learn to Use the Mac with VoiceOver: A Step-by-Step Guide for Blind Users (National Braille Press) guides low-vision users transitioning from Windows.
AbleNet creates products and software that give persons with physical and cognitive disabilities greater access to communications and computer technology. The company's 800+ assistive technology products are designed to enhance independence and quality of life for persons with special learning needs.
MathPad is a program for Mac and Windows that enables students to organize, format, and solve basic math problems on their computer. MathPad provides audio feedback and auto-navigation that can help students who struggle to do math on paper.
Going Blind is a feature-length documentary tracing director Joe Lovett’s journey into life with vision loss -- a reality that glaucoma forces him to face. The film profiles five persons with varying degrees of sight loss.
The following FAQ provides an introduction to the main accessibility features built into the Microsoft Windows operating system.
iMersee is an accessible social network for blind and visually impaired persons that also provides access to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter feeds.
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.
The Perkins SMART Brailler combines the manual functionality of the classic Perkins Brailler with assistive technology -- including a visual display, text-to-speech, and electronic file transfer, to make learning braille easier for young students and those who work with them.