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.
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.
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.
The Audible app for Android and iOS devices gives blind and visually impaired readers access to 85,000+ digital audiobooks.
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.
This list features five iPad apps designed to help young people with autism and other developmental disabilities communication more effectively.
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.
Purple Communications gives deaf callers telecom access through its video relay service, sign language interpreters, and public placement of videophones.
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.
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.
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.
Free or low-cost phones for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing is available through state Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Programs.
The CDesk Windows application combines assistive technologies for the blind, including a screen reader, scanner, video magnifier, and voice recognition.
The most popular computer access solutions used by the blind and visually impaired, including screen readers, OCR products, screen magnifiers, and others.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 gallery highlights the wide range of devices one can use to play digital audiobooks.
The University of Athens has created an online directory where persons with disabilities can download free Windows software to make their PC more accessible.
Siri is a voice-activated “personal assistant” introduced with iPhone 4S that executes tasks and retrieves information based on spoken requests.
Co:Writer helps learning disabled students write by predicting words and displaying choices in a window accessible through most writing applications.
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.
Enhanced Vision’s Pebble is a portable video magnifier that enlarges from 2x to 10x and has a
The BARD Mobile app lets qualified National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped users play braille and Talking Books on their iOS 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.
The iPad is especially accessible to blind & visually impaired students and -- says Tara Mason -- is a remarkably robust, low-cost, low-vision aid.
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.
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.
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.
Texthelp’s Read&Write GOLD is educational software designed to improve writing skills and reading comprehension among students with learning disabilities.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Michael Lang, who was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, has overcome his visual impairment and turned his love of storytelling into a way to connect with young people and launch -- Coyote's Inkwell -- a teaching business dedicated to education, enrichment, and entertainment through music, stories, and laughter.
Bookshare is a free online library of DAISY books that students with documented print disabilities can download as audio files.
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
Dragon Notes is a voice recognition app for creating, organizing, and sharing dictated notes, lists, and ideas on a Windows 8 tablet or PC.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
In this About Assistive Technology article, Shannon Kelly of Actuate Corporation discusses why organizations must make digital content accessible to all.
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.
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.
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.
This article outlines accessibility features in Apple OS X and iOS devices for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
iLearnNEarn is an education app -- a mobile version of Shanesh COLORS -- designed to teach children with autism and other learning disabilities.
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.
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 DynaVox Maestro is a portable, electronic speech generating device that enables persons with speech disabilities to communicate using text, symbols, and synthetic speech.
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.
Read&Write for Google, a suite of literacy tools from Texthelp, provides a powerful word prediction engine accessible when working with Google Docs.
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.
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.
Creating an Alternative Text Station to make content accessible to print disabled students is a good idea, the law, and a simple project any school can do in less than an hour.
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.
On this page, tell Bookshare how you learned about them and, if you like, sign up for their newsletter.
Dragon Dictate for Mac 4 voice recognition software now enables the automatic transcription of spoken content from prerecorded audio files.
The SpeakEasy Reading Machine is a low-vision aid that reads scanned documents aloud, giving seniors private access to virtually all reading material.
Avaz is a picture-based augmentative communication app for Android & iOS that helps nonverbal children develop language and communication 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.
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.
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.
Texthelp develops literacy software, especially Read&Write GOLD, which provides a toolbar that helps print-disabled readers improve comprehension, research, and writing skills.
The following FAQ provides an introduction to the main accessibility features built into the Microsoft Windows operating system.
Bookshare’s Web Reader and Bookshelf make its online library of 175,000 DAISY books more accessible to readers with print disabilities. The first tool enables users to play audiobooks in any browser; the second makes it easy for students and teachers to organize their Bookshare titles.
Assistive technology is expensive, but persons with disabilities have many options for funding the solutions they need, as this article outlines.
Adaptivation makes electronic aids, environmental controls, switches, and other assistive devices that help persons with special needs to communicate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
VIBUG is the nation’s oldest computer user group for blind and visually impaired persons, offering assistive technology training and peer support.
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.
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.
Bank of America services for disabled customers include its screen-reader compatible website, talking ATMs, and bank statements in accessible formats.
Blind and visually impaired persons can bank safely online using a screen reader to access and navigate each section of a bank’s website.
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 iPhone has changed expectations for how much assistive technology for blind persons should cost, says VIBUG president Amy Ruell in this 2011 interview.
Communications apps enable autistic and other non-verbal persons to generate speech by pressing images or typing words on their iOS device.
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.
Windows mouse keys enable users with limited dexterity to move the pointer by pressing keys on the keyboard’s number pad.
Reading and Radio Resource records audiobooks for children and adults with print disabilities, provides descriptive audio services, and broadcasts radio programming over the Internet aimed at listeners who are blind or visually impaired.
“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 American Printing House for the Blind provides free braille- and audiobooks and low-vision assistive devices to blind and visually impaired students.
Texthelp’s Fluency Tutor for Google is an assessment app enabling teachers to assign and score reading passages to monitor each student’s progress.
DynaVox Mayer-Johnson is a leading developer of speech generating devices and other augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies.
Fotobabble is a website and mobile app that enables blind and visually impaired people record audio captions to digital photos and share them instantly.
Apple’s iOS 7 has enhanced the switch control capabilities, enabling persons with mobility impairments to access their entire device using switches.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The Eazy Reader Deluxe is low-vision reading aid, a digital camera that displays magnified images on a TV or LCD monitor.
The Tobii I-Series are speech generating devices that facilitate computer access, environmental control, speech, and long distance communication.
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.
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.
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 Victor Reader Stream plays e-Books and DAISY and audiobooks for the blind one can download for free from online sources such as Bookshare.
The ODIN VI is a talking mobile phone designed to be fully accessible to persons who blind or visually impaired, including seniors.
RocketKeys is an AAC app for iPad that enables users to customize keyboards to type faster and generate spontaneous speech more efficiently.
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.
MegaTunes Player is a music player app for iOS that displays all songs, artists, playlists, compilations and Podcasts in large, high-contrast text.
Video description narrates key visual elements blind viewers may miss to make broadcast and online media more accessible to viewers with visual impairments.
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.
Dropbox is a cloud-based service that lets users store, share, and synchronize files, including photos and videos that they can access on any of their computers, smart phones, or the web.
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.
Texthelp’s Read&Write Gold 11 for PC is a customizable toolbar that sits atop Windows applications and provides features to help students with print disabilities read, research, and write more effectively.
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.
ChromeVis is a free extension for the Google Chrome browser that enables users with print disabilities to select, magnify, and modify website text to make it easier to read.
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.
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.
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.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 supports built-in PC mics and expands voice recognition to web applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Outlook, and Chrome.
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 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.
The Co:Writer for iOS app provides word prediction based on proper spelling and grammar as well as user-defined and topic-specific dictionaries.
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.
sitecues is an SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that lets organizations deploy reading tools and magnification to make websites more accessible.
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.
Window-Eyes is GW Micro’s screen reader that converts commands into synthetic speech to make Windows applications more accessible to blind PC users.
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.
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.
Mind mapping applications enable users to brainstorm and organize ideas, add notes, images, links, and audio and to collaborate with others online.