Low Vision/Blindness Related Products
The use of Braille, assistive technology (such as computers with synthetic speech), IOS devices from Apple with Voice Over software included, scanners, or large-print displays provide alternatives to print reading and writing. The following resources are designed to help transition into or improve the use of these adaptive technologies. It is important to note that most of the resources described or titled for the blind are also appropriate for people with low vision.
While Club VIBES can not endorse any of the organizations listed on this page, the following is a list of the most established companies and nonprofit organizations providing various types of adaptive technology for people who are blind or visually impaired. As with any other consumer purchase, you are encouraged to research and check before buying. We have made every effort, however, not to include any entity with a poor professional reputation.
Apple has recently grown to be one of the new leaders in the field of serving blind and low vision. Using the built in screenreader called Voice Over,VO, they are competitively priced in the mainstream market and offer many hardware devices that with the use of apps can bring lots of independence to a totally blind user. Learning to utilize the touch screen with audio feedback can be a true learning curve, but offers much to the user once learned.
Freedom Scientific is perhaps the largest and best known company producing adaptive technology for the visually impaired. Its products include: screen reading software for the blind, magnification software for those with low-vision, and other products for accessible scanning and reading, as well as Braille displays, notetakers, and an accessible PDA.
GW Micro features a wide range of adaptive products, which include screen reading software, Braille notetakers. an accessible laptop, and a CCTV for enlarging print for those with low vision.
This is a free screen reader software download for people who are blind or have low vision. The free RoboBraille translation service has now officially added support for American English grades 1 and 2 braille. You can attach a document in a variety of formats, including pictures of print documents, and have the result e-mailed to you as a braille document. To generate contracted braille, e-mail your print document to firstname.lastname@example.org
Duxbury Systems provide high-quality software for Braille. The Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT) and MegaDots are used by virtually all of the world’s leading Braille publishers. No one supports more languages than Duxbury Systems — DBT supports grade 1 and grade 2 translations in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Malaysian, Swedish, and other languages. Its software can produce contracted and uncontracted Braille, mathematics, and technical Braille.
APH provides a number of excellent computer and computer-related resources including:
Because of changes in the way textbooks are selected and used in general education, the American Printing House for the Blind is revamping its procedure for recording and distributing texts for classroom use. It is creating new systems to provide accessible textbooks in an expanded variety of media. In addition to traditional textbooks, titles will be produced in Braille, hardcopy, Electronic files for embossing, and downloadable files from the APH web site.
Enabling Technologies designs, manufactures, and supports some of the most popular Braille Embossers, a device for quickly printing large quantities of high-quality Braille.
Although the home page highlights macular degeneration, this company provides high-quality services of use to virtually anyone with any type of vision loss. It produces BrailleNote, the world’s smallest PDA for the blind; PocketViewer, a portable magnifier; Orator, software to enable the blind to easily use the Blackberry PDA; and Victor Reader Stream, a digital talking book player. HumanWare is especially noteworthy for an excellent reputation for customer support.
While the quality of the speech leaves a good deal to be desired and the software is not as full-featured as its pricier competition, this screen reader is a unique technology with significant promise. It is also noteworthy that it is easier to to learn and, therefore, may be better suited for a user who is not interested in, or does not need, a more sophisticated product.
AI Squared makes Zoom Text, one of the leading screen enlargement programs for using computers. It is one of the largest and best known companies in this market.
This company offers a select assortment of Braille and speech products including: optical character recognition (OCR) packages; screen readers; enlargement software; a portable magnifier for laptops; hand-held organizers and many other products from a variety of key manufacturers.
Over 30 years old, ILA offers a wide variety of products, some designed for the general public and many others specially created for the blind/visually impaired market. You can order by phone, online, or through an accessible catalog. You may also get either a free PDF or text-based catalog.
Over 20 years old, MaxiAids offers over 6,000 products for several groups of customers with disabilities. Orders may be placed through their web site, by faxing 631-752-0689, or by calling their toll-free number, 800-522-6294. .
“You can get free access to catalogs such as LL Bean, Lands End, Avon Campaign, Beauty Boutique, Anthony Richards and Carol Wright Gifts, and more. Catalogs are available as download, quad track cassette, or mp3/cd. Telephone 877-814-7323 and place your order.”
This online store offers audio books, software for entertainment, tools, electronics, housewares, kitchen products, sporting goods, toys, as well as other Adaptive products for the blind. Telephone 713-893-7277.
Although the catalog is not as extensive as some other sites, there is, nonetheless, a good listing of accessible products, especially for someone who is adjusting to vision loss. Major sections include toys and games, time keeping, low vision products, “Braille workshop,” copying services, housewares, greeting cards, gifts, computer lab, and a Braille bookstore. Phone 800-987-1231.
Billed as “your home” for the latest deals, and news for the blind and visually impaired. Blind Bargains scours the net to bring you the latest sales, deals, and news on computers, screen readers, notetakers, braille printers, hard drives, accessible cell phones, memory cards, talking products, household items, and much more. [It] also presents articles, news, and resources of general interest to the blind community and friends.” Highly accessible site so that a blind computer user may easily order online.
Organizations providing Learning assistance
Top Dot Enterprises offers individual and small-group adaptive technology training to blind users in person, online or by phone. It also sells audio training courses which have helped many people gain confidence in using adaptive technology. You can also sign-up to receive a concise weekly e-mail newsletter containing the week’s news in adaptive technology, technology in general as it relates to the blind, and Internet audio.
The Chicago Lighthouse has established a telephone assistive technology support line. The toll-free number is 888-825-0080. Any person who is blind or visually impaired, their teachers, or others may call the support line regardless of what product they’re using. The service is available to anyone in the United States or Canada.
Carroll Tech, a division of The Carroll Center for the Blind, offers high-quality online courses in adaptive technology. Such classes are designed for you if you: need training in Microsoft Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint or any of a number of Braille, speech or large print devices; are a first-time user or need to upgrade your knowledge; or use the screen readers JAWS For Windows or Window-Eyes or the screen magnifiers ZoomText or MAGic.
This site, hosted by Ric Harmon, provides links to excellent audio tutorials, programs, web sites of interest to visually impaired computer users, mailing lists, and upcoming events of interest to blind geeks as well as would-be geeks.
The mission of this site is “to educate the general public, the disabled community and the professionals who serve them by providing highly relevant information about new products, services, and training opportunities designed specifically to eliminate geographic and access barriers that adversely affect them.” Especially good for frequent programs and training on the rapidly changing world of adaptive technology.
Visually Impaired Boston Users Group (VIBUG) is the oldest computer user group for the blind. They offer excellent audio archives of their monthly programs for no charge. In addition, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, people can join from anywhere for $20 per year, allowing you to take part in the meetings live, ask questions, get live computer assistance, and share resources.
“This site by the Web Accessibility Initiative, is designed to let you change the Text Size and Text Background Colors and other display settings through standard browser settings.”
“The main purpose of Simplehelp.net is to help beginner-to-intermediate computer users learn how to do various things with their computers. Simplehelp.net teaches a wide variety of topics to all levels, such as troubleshooting email, preventing spam and removing spyware.”
“AppleVis is a community driven website that was created in response to a demand for [a site that] collected information on the accessibility of apps developed for Apple’s iOS devices. [It aims] to build a directory of guides, tutorials and tips that will enable vision impaired users to get the most from their iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.” It is arguably the best current site providing this type of information.
“For those wanting guidance on the use of the latest Apple products with VoiceOver, as well as with older versions, the adaptive technology podcasts from Vision Australia[is] a consistent source of good information.”
This database includes the names, locations, and qualifications of producers of accessible materials for visually impaired and blind individuals.
The Fred’s Head Database is a source of tips and techniques for and by blind or visually impaired individuals related to adaptive technology.
The American Foundation for the Blind has been a traditional leader in the field of blindness. The AFB Web site provides some especially good information for getting into, or refining, your use of all types of adaptive technology. One interesting link is about using technology. A variety of information on technology can be found in this web site section, which features descriptions of adaptive equipment, offers tips on using technology effectively, and gives technology specialists advice on making web sites and computer applications accessible to people who are visually impaired.