Using technology when living with sight loss
Technology and other aids can help you live an independent life. Most smartphones, tablets and computers now contain accessibility features meaning that you can use the same devices as everyone else.
The most important thing is to find what works for you, as everybody is different.
How technology can help you
Here are some ways that technology can help you to live an independent life:
In your home
- To help you to read packaging, instructions or see what’s in the fridge you can use apps such as Microsoft’s Seeing AI or Be My Eyes
- To help you navigate routes and understand what’s around you can use Google Maps or BlindSquare
- To help you with train or bus times and platform numbers you can use the National Rail app, CityMapper or UK Bus Checker
- To help you to read paper documents and reports you can use apps such as Microsoft’s Seeing AI, KNFB reader or magnification equipment
- To help you to use computers you can use screenreader and magnification software such as NVDA, Jaws, ZoomText or Supernova
Understanding the technology available
Most smartphones, tablets and computers have inbuilt accessibility settings which allow you to:
- Change the font size and magnification
- Adjust the colours or contrast
- Use text to speech, such as Voiceover on iPhone or TalkBack on Android
- Talk to your device using a voice interface such as Siri on iPhone, Google Assistant or Cortana on Windows
Sometimes on your computer you may need to install further accessibility software. This might include screen reader and magnification software such as:
You may also want to explore technology that is specialised to your needs as a vision impaired person. These could include:
The RNIB shop has a good range of technology available for you to explore.
Choosing your tech
It is important that you try out the technology before you make a decision.
Organisations such as RSBC (if you are in London), the RNIB or your local sight loss organisation should have a range of products that you can try. You may also be able to access these through the Low Vision Clinic at the hospital.
When you are trying out technology, think about:
- what you want it to help you do,
- how you will use it,
- whether it works for you
Paying for the tech
Technology can be expensive. There are a number of ways that you can get support to cover the costs:
- If you are under 18 in education, your local authority may cover the cost of technology you need for school.
- If you are a student, you may be entitled to Disabled Student Allowance (link to Disabled Student Allowance on benefits 16+ page)
- If you are in work, Access to Work (link to Access to work on benefits 16+ page) may be able to cover the cost of your technology
Published: October 2017