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 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.
DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) is a set of standards for synchronizing text, audio, and navigation files to make books accessible in multiple formats.
The iPad is especially accessible to blind & visually impaired students and -- says Tara Mason -- is a remarkably robust, low-cost, low-vision aid.
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.
Talking Books are audiobooks the National Library Service for Blind and Physically Handicapped records to make books accessible to print disabled readers.
The most popular computer access solutions used by the blind and visually impaired, including screen readers, OCR products, screen magnifiers, and others.
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.
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.
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 AccessaMed Digital Audio Prescription Label reads medication and dosage details aloud to persons with visual impairments, including seniors.
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.
EyeSight from SightTech is a mobile app that turns any Apple iOS device into a portable electronic magnifier for blind and visually impaired users.
Mobile apps such as SightTech's EyeSight are far cheaper than portable video magnifiers (CCTVs), which still boast higher optical quality. In this interview, SightTech's Michael Brooks discusses this evolution in magnification technology and why he feels the future belongs to apps on mobile devices.
Enhanced Vision’s Pebble is a portable video magnifier that enlarges from 2x to 10x and has a
Siri is a voice-activated “personal assistant” introduced with iPhone 4S that executes tasks and retrieves information based on spoken requests.
Bookshare is a free online library of DAISY books that students with documented print disabilities can download as audio files.
This article presents 10 apps designed for people who are blind or visually impaired that work with Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
The University of Athens has created an online directory where persons with disabilities can download free Windows software to make their PC more accessible.
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.
This article outlines accessibility features in Apple OS X and iOS devices for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped has 400,000+ audio, braille, and e-texts for readers with print disabilities.
Free or low-cost phones for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing is available through state Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Programs.
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.
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.
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.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 supports built-in PC mics and expands voice recognition to web applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Outlook, and Chrome.
Co:Writer helps learning disabled students write by predicting words and displaying choices in a window accessible through most writing applications.
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.
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.
In this About Assistive Technology article, Shannon Kelly of Actuate Corporation discusses why organizations must make digital content accessible to all.
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.
The Braille Sense U2 Mini (HIMS) is a compact braille device with a keyboard, braille display, and numerous communications and media file functions.
This gallery highlights the wide range of devices one can use to play digital audiobooks.
The Audible app for Android and iOS devices gives blind and visually impaired readers access to 85,000+ digital audiobooks.
Windows mouse keys enable users with limited dexterity to move the pointer by pressing keys on the keyboard’s number pad.
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.
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.
The DynaVox Maestro is a portable, electronic speech generating device that enables persons with speech disabilities to communicate using text, symbols, and synthetic speech.
Assistive technology is expensive, but persons with disabilities have many options for funding the solutions they need, as this article outlines.
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.
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.
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.
The SpeakEasy Reading Machine is a low-vision aid that reads scanned documents aloud, giving seniors private access to virtually all reading material.
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.
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).
The Transformer from Enhanced Vision is a portable video magnifier that can serve as a desktop and distance reading aid for visually impaired students.
Texthelp’s Read&Write GOLD is educational software designed to improve writing skills and reading comprehension among students with learning disabilities.
The Eazy Reader Deluxe is low-vision reading aid, a digital camera that displays magnified images on a TV or LCD monitor.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
Bookshare offers free online books in DAISY format. Free memberships enable print disabled students to download any of the 175,000 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.
Apple’s iOS 7 operating system features many enhancements that make iOS devices more accessible to persons with sensory and physical disabilities.
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 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.
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.
Dragon Dictate 2.5 for Mac is voice recognition software that lets OS X and iOS users write and edit text with their 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.
DynaVox Mayer-Johnson is a leading developer of speech generating devices and other augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies.
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.
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.
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.
RoboBraille is a free online service that converts text documents into braille or audio files. Users
The Enhanced Vision acrobat HD-mini video magnifier lets low-vision users enlarge text, images, and distant objects at work, school, or at home.
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.
MBraille is an iOS app for an onscreen keyboard that lets blind users tweet and send text messages using contracted or uncontracted English braille.
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.
Bank of America services for disabled customers include its screen-reader compatible website, talking ATMs, and bank statements in accessible formats.
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.
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.
iLearnNEarn is an education app -- a mobile version of Shanesh COLORS -- designed to teach children with autism and other learning disabilities.
Fotobabble is a website and mobile app that enables blind and visually impaired people record audio captions to digital photos and share them instantly.
In this interview, blind education & assistive technology expert Tara Mason discusses how Common Core State Standards (CCSS) relate to blind students.
The NLS Digital Talking Book player was released in 2006. It plays NLS DAISY audiobooks that are recorded on (or downloaded to) small digital cartridges that have replaced the use of cassette tapes.
The iPhone has changed expectations for how much assistive technology for blind persons should cost, says VIBUG president Amy Ruell in this 2011 interview.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Better Vision is a mobile app for iOS and Android devices that magnifies text, provides contrast and color filters to improve clarity, and, if all else fails, can read text aloud
The Plustek BookReader V100 voice to text reading machine reads text aloud to give blind and visually impaired persons greater access to written material.
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.
Read&Write for Google, a suite of literacy tools from Texthelp, provides a powerful word prediction engine accessible when working with Google Docs.
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.
Communications apps enable autistic and other non-verbal persons to generate speech by pressing images or typing words on their iOS device.
The i.d. mate OMNI talking barcode scanner enables blind shoppers to hear details on over 2.3 million products in its database.
Apple’s iOS 7 has enhanced the switch control capabilities, enabling persons with mobility impairments to access their entire device using switches.
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.
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
Video description narrates key visual elements blind viewers may miss to make broadcast and online media more accessible to viewers with visual impairments.
Finding accessible textbooks is crucial to academic success for many college students with disabilities. Solutions abound, but integrating them can be confusing and time-consuming. Diana Petschauer, who runs the Assistive Technology lab at the University of New Hampshire, offers four simple suggestions to help print-disabled readers find what they need quickly and consistently.
The RNIB PenFriend Audio Labeler enables blind persons to organize objects by recording notes on corresponding scannable stickers for later replay.
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.
OrCam is a low-vision aid consisting of a small camera mounted on a pair of glasses connected to a smart phone-sized computer that uses leading-edge recognition software and synthetic speech to help blind people identify objects and people and read printed text, street signs, traffic lights, and bus and building numbers.
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.
Speech generating devices (SGDs) give nonverbal persons tools to communicate, e.g. word & symbol libraries they can tap and voice via text to speech.
The following review looks at En-Vision America's ScripTalk Station Reader, a device that reads aloud prescription information on pill bottles using radio-frequency identification and text-to-speech. ScripTalk is designed for people who have difficulty reading pill bottles, including seniors, and persons who are blind or visually impaired.
WebAnywhere is a free remote screen reader that enables blind and low vision computer users to browse the web from virtually any machine.
Fleksy is an iOS app that works with VoiceOver to make typing quick and easy for blind iPhone users. The app features on touch-screen keypad that deduces desired input using a next-generation auto-correct engine and proprietary programming.
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.
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.
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.
Dragon Dictate for Mac 4 voice recognition software now enables the automatic transcription of spoken content from prerecorded 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.
MathTrax is free PC software that creates audio representations using text description and sonification to make graphs and complex math equations accessible to blind students.
The Tobii I-Series are speech generating devices that facilitate computer access, environmental control, speech, and long distance communication.
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.
Purple Communications gives deaf callers telecom access through its video relay service, sign language interpreters, and public placement of videophones.
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.
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.
The Co:Writer for iOS app provides word prediction based on proper spelling and grammar as well as user-defined and topic-specific dictionaries.
Dragon Notes is a voice recognition app for creating, organizing, and sharing dictated notes, lists, and ideas on a Windows 8 tablet or PC.
Alex Krauth was born blind due to Retinopathy of Prematurity -- a condition that has not stopped her from learning and sharing her gift for music -- a subject she discusses in the following article.
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.
HumanWare’s Prodigi Duo is a 2-in-1 video magnifier that combines a desktop CCTV with a detachable camera that functions as a handheld (tablet) magnifier
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 American Printing House for the Blind provides free braille- and audiobooks and low-vision assistive devices to blind and visually impaired students.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
Switches offer persons with limited mobility alternative input methods for accessing computers, toys, and appliances. Here are five switch solutions from AbleNet.
The following FAQ provides an introduction to the main accessibility features built into the Microsoft Windows operating system.
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.
RocketKeys is an AAC app for iPad that enables users to customize keyboards to type faster and generate spontaneous speech more efficiently.
The BARD Mobile app lets qualified National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped users play braille and Talking Books on their iOS device.
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.
TV Speak routes digital TV to an environment most blind people know well—the PC—and provides spoken program guides and keyboard navigation.
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.
This interview discusses how the University of New Hampshire’s disability services trains students on adaptive devices at its Assistive Technology Lab.
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.
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.
QRead is an e-book application that enables blind and visually impaired people to navigate and listen to digital books in most popular formats using a screen reader.
Go Read is a free app that enables print-impaired readers to download Bookshare titles to their Android device.
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.
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.
Magnification apps use a device’s built-in camera, light, and processor to emulate the functions of handheld video magnifiers -- a key low vision aid.
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.