Five tips for getting started with assistive technology
In January 2017, RSBC merged with the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB). Although we are now called RSBC, there may be some references toRLSB in the following article.
Everyone’s always talking about being connected, discussing the latest viral trends, and comparing the latest gadgets. For vision impaired young people having accessible technology that’s both easy to use and gives you the information you need can be empowering. But where to begin?
Check out our five essential tips to get you started using assistive technology.
1. Screen Readers and magnification for your computer.
A Screen Readers is a piece of software that reads out text that appears on screen, enabling you to access a computer’s core functions and surf the web. Magnification software enlarges the text on the screen.
For PC users there are a number of screen readers and magnification programmes for you to choose from:
- Freedom Scientific sells Jaws for Windows and Magic magnification
- Window-Eyes is free for users who own licensed copies of Microsoft Office 2010 or later
- Non Visual Desktop Access, (NVDA) is free and runs on Windows computers only
Macs have Voice Over, a built-in Screen Reader that does not require any additional installation.
2. Android or iPhone? A look at accessibility and usability.
There are plenty of apps and software out there to make your smartphone much easier and more enjoyable to use.
Android devices such as Samsung phones support Talkback, a screen-reader that alters the gestures of a touch screen to make it accessible to blind users. The iPhone’s version of this is called Voice Over.
On Android, Synapptic redesigns the whole user interface and is fully customisable to your visual needs making it a breeze to navigate. There are also a number of apps that you can use to dictate emails and texts and you can also use your camera to magnify signs when you are out and about – long gone are the days of carrying around clunky magnifiers!
Check out some other useful apps for Android and iPhone below:
- ‘Brighter and Bigger’ is a free magnification app for Apple devices
- BlindSquare, a paid GPS navigation app for iPhone
- Be My eyes, an iPhone app connecting you to sighted volunteer helpers via video chat
- Magnifier, an Android magnification App
3. Stay connected with Braille devices
If you're comfortable with braille and find it practical when delivering presentations or note-taking in meetings then refreshable braille displays may be just the thing for you.
Refreshable braille displays are electronic devices that display braille electronically making it easy to read and edit. Some braille displays work only as an add on to your PC, while devices, such as HumanWare’s Braille Note can connect to a computer and also work as stand-alone devices that have word processing capabilities and internet connectivity.
4. Do your bit around the home with talking household gadgets
There’s a tonne of household gadgets and aids that can make doing your bit around the home so much easier.
Liquid level indicators beep when liquid has nearly reached the top of the cup, talking scales can help when weighing ingredients for your next bake-off attempt, and labelling your food packaging or CD collection is quick and simple when using a Pen Friend. Check out the RNIB’s household gadgets and aids page for ideas.
5. Get out and about with high tech mobility aids
When it comes to getting around, there’s plenty of innovative tech that is aiming to help vision impaired travellers get from A to B.
At RSBC, we’re working to make it easier to navigate indoors and underground with Wayfindr; an open standard aiming to open up shopping centres and transport terminals with consistent turn-by-turn audio-navigation instructions.
For those of you who use canes you should check out the Ultra Cane, which vibrates as you approach obstacles, and if you don’t have ticklish feet you might want to try on the Lechal Smart shoes which vibrate to show users the way.
Are you interested in honing your skills with assistive technology and getting job ready? Sign up to our employability programme where you can get hands-on training with some of the technology mentioned above from our Assistive Technology Officer.