Living with low vision can present daily challenges but with the right tools and technology, people with visual impairments can maintain their independence and enjoy a high quality of life. From helpful gadgets to life-changing assistive devices there are many innovative products available today that can make all the difference.
Screen reader software audibly reads text displayed on a computer or mobile device, allowing the user to access information on the screen without having to see it. Popular screen readers provide text-to-speech capabilities and keyboard shortcuts for navigation. This essential software enables people with limited vision to send emails, surf online and interact with computers.
Screen readers vocalize menus, text boxes and other elements on a screen as the user navigates with a mouse or keyboard. Users can have the entire screen read sequentially or navigate to specific sections, lines, words or characters. Advanced screen readers also describe images, detect colors and customize voices.
Magnifying devices enlarge text and images to make them more visible for those with low vision conditions like macular degeneration. Handheld magnifiers can quickly magnify anything in the user’s environment, from restaurant menus to product labels. Stand magnifiers have a fixed focal length and keep reading materials steady. Compact electronic magnifiers can enlarge text and also adjust contrast, brightness, focus and more. These magnifying tools expand functionality and make activities like reading and writing easier.
Talking Watches and Clocks
Knowing the time is something many take for granted but analog watches and clocks present a challenge for the visually impaired. Talking timepieces audibly announce the time at the touch of a button or automatically at set intervals. The wearer can also feel models with tactile hands. Talking watches and clocks restore the convenience of checking the time for those with low vision.
Talking watches speak the hours, minutes and other details in clear, synthetic speech. Useful features include alarms, stopwatches and countdown timers. Luminous markings help low-vision users view traditional watches with difficulty.
Talking Kitchen Products
From ovens to microwaves many standard appliances now offer speech feedback to guide users through cooking. Talking kitchen products provide audible prompts for settings and voice confirmation for completing actions. This allows for the safe, independent operation of essential kitchen tools.
There are also accessible talking versions of kitchen gadgets like thermometers and scales. With audio assistance, people with visual impairments can confidently navigate through recipes and measurements.
Ovens and microwaves with speech output clearly guide users through selecting cook times and power levels and starting the appliance. They confirm settings and alert when cooking is finished. Talking coffee makers, blenders and other electronic appliances offer similar step-by-step audio prompting. Talking kitchen tools provide helpful measurement feedback – talking thermometers state temperatures, scales speak weight amounts and barcode scanners audibly identify grocery items.
Large Print Books and Music
Enjoying literature, learning, and entertainment often centers around the written word. For people with visual disabilities, large print books with text-sized 18-24 point font make reading possible and pleasurable. Along with printed books, electronic readers can display adjustable font sizes and contrast for accessibility. Audiobooks present another excellent alternative. Music lovers with low vision can also opt for large print sheet music and lyrics to follow along with their favorite songs.
Identifying canned goods, folders, medication bottles and more can prove difficult for the visually impaired. Electronic labeling tools enable users to record verbal labels that can be affixed to various objects and then played back when needed. These audio labels can also describe colors, locations, dates and instructions for items around the home or office. Simple labeling solutions provide clarity and foster independence.
Handheld recorders allow users to capture customized voice notes up to twenty seconds long. The audio labels can be stuck on any item and replayed on demand by pressing a button. This helps distinguish between similar products and medications. Some labels permanently attach to objects using adhesive or magnets, while others use reusable Velcro for attaching vocal descriptions to folders, shelves, and more.
Navigating unfamiliar environments poses challenges for the visually impaired. Handheld GPS devices designed for the blind provide audio directions and information about surroundings through synthetic speech. Users can explore new places independently and safely with continual updates about points of interest, intersections, sidewalks, and obstacles along the route. This liberating technology promotes mobility and confidence.
While not a product per se, service animals like guide dogs provide invaluable assistance for the blind and visually impaired. Guide dogs are highly trained to lead owners, avoid obstacles, stop for curbs and disobey unsafe commands. Their stable presence grants newfound confidence in travel and navigation. Service animals enable people with substantial vision loss to get out and actively engage with their community.
Smart Home Technology
Today’s smart home devices offer automation, voice controls, and speech feedback that can be tremendously helpful for users with visual disabilities. Smart speakers make it easy to set timers and alarms, control lights, adjust thermostats and manage other connected devices through voice commands. Smart doorbells and security cameras add peace of mind by announcing visitors and events detected at home. Voice-guided systems create accessible, hands-free homes.
For the blind and visually impaired, braille represents a vital tactile reading and writing system. Refreshable braille displays connect to smartphones and computers, converting on-screen text into raised braille characters that users can read with their fingers. Braille embossers transfer digital text into embossed braille pages for offline reading. Braille writers provide tactile typing and writing capabilities. These tools help maintain braille literacy and provide full access to information.
Refreshable braille displays use rounded pins to raise and lower to form braille characters on command as text scrolls on-screen. This allows blind users to read emails, documents, web pages, and more through touch instead of sight. High-quality braille displays incorporate navigation keys, and some handheld models integrate braille typing.
Portable and desktop video magnifier units use a built-in camera and display to provide magnification from 2x to 85x for reading books, mail, viewing photos, and other tasks that require visual accuracy. Options include colored backgrounds, variable contrast, focus lock, and other adjustments to optimize clarity and comfort.
Video magnifiers can alternate between full 24-inch views of text and fine details. The large displays allow users with macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision loss to enjoy reading and viewing images independently.
While low vision can significantly impact daily life, a variety of products and assistive technologies help maximize independence for the blind and visually impaired. Aids for blind people like Envision Low Vision Glasses, GPS devices, and Braille Note Taker/Tablet, open up new possibilities for interacting with the world. With the right support, people with visual disabilities can confidently pursue their passions and live enriching lives.