The use of Braille, assistive technology (such as computers with synthetic speech), scanners, or large-print displays provides 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.
The American Printing House for the Blind
APH provides a number of excellent computer and computer-related resources including:
Custom production services
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, eElectronic files for mbossing, and downloadable files from the APH web site.
Accessible Media Producers' Database
This database includes the names, locations, and qualifications of producers of accessible materials for visually impaired and blind individuals.
Fred's Head Database
The Fred's Head Database is a source of tips and techniques for and by blind or visually impaired individuals related to adaptive technology.
American Foundation for the Blind
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. Of particular interest are the following links:
Careers in technology information bank
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.
This link features descriptions of adaptive equipment and listings of where to find products. Sections include: Screen Magnification, Braille Technology, Synthetic Speech Systems, Optical Character Recognition, Video Magnifiers, and Sources of Assistive Technology Products.
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
Gismos Freeware Reviews
provides several accessible and readable articles covering some chronic problems facing all computer users including
Adaptive Technology Venders
While we can not endorse any particular vender, some of the leading companies in the field of adaptive technologyare listed below.
Duxbury Systems provides 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.
Enabling Technologies designs, manufactures, and supports some of the most popular Braille Embossers, a device for quickly printing large quantities of high-quality Braille.
Freedom Scientific - Low Vision, Blindness and Learning Disability Adaptive and Assistive Software and Hardware Technology
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.
HumanWare 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.
System Access to Go
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.
Alva Access Group
ALVA Access Group 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.
Low Vision Resource Links
Created 17 years ago, this company specializes in the research and manufacturing of products to assist people with low vision. The site introduces these products as well as an extensive list of additional links to sites on eye diseases and conditions, organizations providing assistance, state resources, and more.
Technology Vendors from the New York Institute for Special Education
This is an extensive list of vendors and other resources. Its value is its breadth; its disadvantage is that, of
necessity, no attempt is made to evaluate or provide more than a cursory description of vendors.
The Best Text to Speech (TTS) Software Programs and Online Tools
An excellent annotated list of approximately 30, primarily free, text-to-speech software programs. This is especially useful because it focuses on TTS software that is not heavily publicized and, therefore, is less well-known. While most of these programs are not as robust as some others described on this page, they may provide less expensive alternatives that may be more appropriate, depending on your individual needs.
Instruction and Information
Top Dot Enterprises
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
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.
Access Technology Institute
This site, hosted by Cathy Anne Murtha, specializes in high-quality, readily available, on-line training for blind and visually impaired computer users. Independent study, online classes, or personalized instruction are all available at reasonable prices.
Blind Geek Zone
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.
Free Guides for Visually Impaired People
While this site is not likely to be up-dated and, therefore, will become increasingly out of date, its comprehensive tutorials, mini-guides, user notes, and list of companies supplying adaptive equipment is still valuable. Of special interest are links to information on accessible household appliances.
Visually Impaired and Blind User Group
VIBUG is the Visually Impaired and Blind User Group, serving blind and visually impaired computer users in the Boston area. The site, which is uncluttered and extremely easy to navigate, includes audio files of demonstrations as well as classes held at VIBUG meetings and additional resources for blind computer users.
Blind Programming Site--Resource for Blind Programmers
Trying to keep up with sighted colleagues, to say nothing of your students, on the computer? Perhaps you're trying to learn a particular language or simply stuck on an unusually difficult question. If so, visit this web site, a place where Blind and Visually-impaired programmers (novice or expert) can exchange resources, ideas, knowledge, and experience in any programming-related field.
The Blind Planet
The author, an engineering student from Cal. State Fullerton, says that "our mission is to provide the world with a one-stop resource for blindness-related information, podcasts, tutorials, mailing lists, web sites, and almost anything else that would be useful to the blind community. You will find many audio podcasts and tutorials on different topics. These can range from software and hardware reviews / tutorials on different software programs and hardware devices that blind people use on a daily basis to sound-seeing tours of places such as museums, parks, etc." The Blind Planet is a community-driven site, which means that the growth of the site depends heavily on contributions from its users.
Developed in an effort to disseminate information about accessible devices of all types to people who are blind or visually impaired, this is a community driven site. It includes a reference library section containing many articles, written by members of the community, on how to do various computer tasks. A resource section contains material on useful programs and web resources. Two other sections provide archived articles about developments in technology.
The site features Software reviews written by blind users, tutorials, technology mailing lists, information related to podcasting, music production, as well as numerous other links of more general interest.
How to Change Browser Text Size or Colors
"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.
"Billed as "your portal to the accessible digital lifestyle, using accessible technologies to enhance your life. Here you wil find a twice-monthly podcast, links to awesome software and online resources, and an interactive blog. Best of all, you shape the direction [of the programming] through sharing your experiences and resources." Excellent site for keeping up with the latest in adaptive technology. The podcasts are of special note. A production
How to Change Text Size orColors
"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."
Simple Help: Common questions, simple answers
"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."
If you’re trying to master a Bluetooth keyboard or gestures with an I-device earlier than IOS5, this is a great place to get started.
“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.
Adaptive Technology Podcast
“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.”
Getting interested in technology videos
"Getting interested in technology has never been as simple and as easy to do as it is today." The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) has created "a range of great tools to show you what's available and help you get started." You can find excellent materials on screen-readers and screen magnification, smart phones and tablets, online safety, social media, online shopping and banking, independent travel, and barriers preventing older people with sight loss from using the Internet. Materials are
available by both videos or written transcripts.
iOS Blind Users Group
The mission of this site “is to assist the blind and visually impaired community to become more proficient in using the accessibility features of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.” It provides virtual user group meetings, podcasts of its recorded conference calls, and monthly newsletters.
Free Software for Blind People
All of the software programs on this site are available for download for free for you to use. They help you to read web pages, listen to radio and audio on the web, and much more. It is recommended that you download the single WebbIE Installer: this will give you the latest versions of all of the featured programs.
Examples of Speech Synthesis "
Trying to decide what speech synthesizer to buy for your adaptive technology? This site will permit you to compare a plethora of choices, including a number of non-English products.
Blind + Linux = BLINUX
Linux is an increasingly popular alternative to more established operating systems like Windows. The purpose of the BLINUX project is to improve usability of the LINUX operating system for the user who is blind. The site provides some background information as well as a discussion list.
"Gizmo's Freeware is a non-commercial community website staffed entirely by volunteers.
[Its] primary function is to help you select the best freeware product for your particular needs.
The best freeware programs are as good as or better than their commercial counterparts but finding the most appropriate program can be challenging. . . . there are dozens of freeware download sites on the web, but few of these actually help you select the best program for your needs. [This site] just [provides] honest advice and useful guidance" because it is a community site without commercial sponsorship. Rated by PC Magazine as one of its top 100 web sites in 2010. Also includes excellent sections on how-tos and tutorials, articles and lists, and best tech web sites.
"SpokenText lets you easily convert text into speech. Record (English, French, Spanish or German) PDF, Word, plain text, PowerPoint files, and web pages, and convert them to speech automatically. Download your reccordings as .mp3 or .m4b (Audio Book) files (in English, French, Spanish and German) of any text content on your computer or mobile phone."
Earl: An App Providing Access to Over 300 Newspapers Through Speech
This podcast from AppleVis "introduces Earl, a new app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. [It] demonstrates how you can have Earl read to you from nearly 300 newspapers worldwide by tapping the screen of your device and speaking a few commands, without having to use the screen or VoiceOver gestures."
Product Reviews and Resources
The Screen Magnifier's Home Page
This site gives the latest news, product reviews, free downloads, and an archive of past articles on screen magnification products for people with low vision.
Blind Computing Home Page
This site is designed specifically for the blind computer user. Here you can find information on computers, peripherals, hardware and software, audio, file utilities, E-Mail lists, websites, and web services for the blind and visually impaired, information on scanners, magnification equipment, system utilities, and much more. This is an excellent site that is well-organized and appears to be updated frequently.
Workplace RERC - Assistive Technology ResourcesThis This site, hosted by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations of Georgia Tech., features an Internet database of assistive technology products, including those that may be used as workplace accommodations. The site includes reference guides that describe resources for various types of assistive technology, including: computer workstations; mouse alternatives; voice input systems; computer magnification; accessible calculators; and reading systems.
ABLEDATA provides objective information about assistive technology products and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources. Although ABLEDATA does not sell any products, it can help you locate the companies that do. Over 36,000 product listings in 20 different categories are featured. The site includes an excellent search feature.
Blindness Related Resources
The author of this site says, "This is not, nor is [it] intended to be, an encyclopedic index of blindness-related resources on the 'net . . . It is merely a collection of links that I have either come to rely upon personally or which I have stumbled across in the course of my own personal web crawling. They are offered here merely as jumping-off points for the exploration of blindness-related resources, for following any one of the links listed on this page will open a Pandora's box of information." The disclaimer is accurate because, while not exhaustive, the site is an excellent source of links to a variety of sources.
While the site provides excellent information on adaptive technologies for a number of different disabilities, the primary feature of value for the blind or visually impaired visitor is the weekly "Accessible World Tech Talks." They cover a number of cutting-edge technologies. The presenters are quite good. An excellent way to find out about the latest tech as well as receive good training.
Blind-Computing Mailing List
The site focuses on providing information on hardware, software, and peripherals for blind and visually impaired computer users.
While the site includes much more than just computers and assistive technology, what it does contain in these areas is of particular note. You will find information here for the more advanced user that is difficult to locate anywhere else. The home page contains a profusion of links which, while organized by category, are so extensive that it may be more time-consuming to locate what you want than is the case at some other sites.
Top Tech Tidbits Newsletter Archive
Flying Blind LLC produces a weekly newsletter on all aspects of accessible technology. It is one of the single best ways to keep informed on the latest information. Concise and readable, this archive makes it possible to conveniently locate and read past issues of the newsletter.
which is published by the
The American Foundation for the Blind,
is one of the single best sources for information about accessible technology.
As might be imagined, the information in this publication is quickly dated because of the speed of development in the technology industry. The following articles, however, have been selected both because of their relevance for educators as well as still being reasonably current. Other articles in Access World may be of interest, however, even though they may not be directly related to education.
Top of Page
- Online Learning: What Works, What Doesn't (July 2008))
- Screen-Reading Alternatives: An Overview of Lower-cost Options (March 2009)
- Is a Netbook Computer Right for You? (September 2009)
- The Revolutionary New iPhone (September 2009)
- Book Review: Using the Accessible iPod
- Lighting Up Your World: A Closer Look at Illuminated Magnifiers (November 2009)
- Lighting Up Your World: A Closer Look at Illuminated Magnifiers, Part 2 (May 2010)
- Seven Days with the iPad: An Accessibility Evaluation (July 2010)
- Refreshabraille Portable Braille Display and Keyboard: A Product Evaluation (July 2010)
- A Review of the Eye-Pal SOLO and Eye-Pal SOLO LV (July 2010)
- Productivity on the Go: Notetakers, Netbooks, and Everything in Between (August 2010)
- Lighting Up Your World: A Closer Look at Illuminated Magnifiers, Part 3 (October 2010)
- An Evaluation of the Olympus DM-4 Digital Recorder (December 2010)
- Accessibility Report on Apple's Latest iOS Update for iPhone, iPod, and iPad (January 2011)
- An Evaluation of DocuScan Plus: A Read Anywhere Program (February 2011)
- Tips for Buying a Computer and Optimizing Its Display for Computer Users with Low Vision (May 2011)
- Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin (May 2011)
- An Evaluation of the Milestone 312 from Bones (May 2011)
- Guide Software, Revisited (May 2011)
- A Comparison of Three Low-Cost, Hand-Held, Camera-Model Video Magnifiers: Vision Booster Magnifier, Carson DR-200 ezRead, and Wireless Electronic Reading
Aid (August 2011)
- NonVisual Desktop Access and Thunder: A Comparison of Two Free Screen Readers
- Braille Sense OnHand Notetaker and PDA (October 2011)
- Readit Scholar by VisionAid (February 2012)
- High Definition: Help or Hype? A Review of the IBIS HD Video Magnifier (February 2012)
- The Bigger Picture: A Comparative Review of Magnifier for Windows 7 and Zoom for Mac OS (March 2012)
- BrailleNote Apex from HumanWare (April 2012)
- Series: Removing The Stress from I.O.S.: A Blueprint for Incorporating Touch Screen Products Into The Classroom, Workplace, and Community (May 2012)
- Series: Removing the Stress from iOS: A Blueprint for Incorporating Touchscreen Products Into the Classroom, Workplace, and Community. Part II: Success
With iOS: Making it Happen! (June 2012)
- When Tech Support Isn't Supportive (June 2012)
- When FullHD and Portability Meet: A Review of the Topolino Smart USB Video Camera (CCTV) (June 2012)
- AccessNote: AFB's New Note Taker for Your iOS Device (July 2012)
- Transforming Lives for People with Low Vision: An Evaluation of the Transformer, a Computer Compatible Electronic Magnifier (July 2012)
- What You See Is What You Feel: Getting in Touch with Haptic Technology (July 2012)
- Series: Removing the Stress from iOS: A Blueprint for Incorporating Touchscreen Products Into the Classroom, Workplace, and Community: Part III (July 2012)
- Series: Removing the Stress from iOS: A Blueprint for Incorporating Touchscreen Products Into the Classroom, Workplace, and Community (August 2012)
- A Step Forward for Accessible Textbooks: A Review of the STudent E-rent Pilot Project (September 2012)
- ZoomText Reinventing Itself: A Review of ZoomText 10 and Its New Features (October 2012)
- Zooming in on Magnification: An Evaluation of the CANDY and CANDY Grip Hand-held Video Magnifiers from HIMS Inc. (December 2012)
- AFB AccessNote Notetaker App Released (February 2013)
- An Electronic Magnifier that Gestures toward the Future: A Review of Flick by Sight Enhancement Systems and Issist Assistive Technologies Inc. (February 2013
- Series: Mac, PC, or Both: Choices for Blind and Visually Impaired Computer Users Part I (March 2013
- Series: Mac, PC, or Both: Choices for Blind and Visually Impaired Computer Users Part II (April 2013
- Series: Social Networking for the Blind or Visually Impaired: The What, Why, and How Part I (April 2013
- Series: Social Networking for the Blind or Visually Impaired Part II: Social Networks and Desktop Computers (May 2013)
- Working with Text and VoiceOver on a Mac (July 2013
- iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible: A Guide for Teachers and Parents (July 2013)
- A Review of the Voice Dream Reader for iOS: A One-Stop Solution (August 2013)
- CDesk from Adaptive Voice: An Intuitive Accessible-Desktop Program that Makes a PC Easier to Use (September 2013)
- Hold That Document: A Review of the ScanJig Portable Document Scanner (September 2013)
- What's New in iOS 7? (October 2013)
- Fine Reader Professional Version 11 by ABBYY and Text Cloner Pro Version 11.5 by Premier Literacy: An Evaluation and Comparison of Two Optical Character
Recognition Products (October 2013)
- An Overview of OS X Mavericks, the New Apple Operating System for Macs (December 2013)
- A Comparative Review of iPhone Magnifier Apps (December 2013)
- Looking at the New Microsoft Accessibility Answer Desk (December 2013)
- An In-depth Evaluation of the BARD Mobile App from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (February 2014)
- An Introduction to Accessible QuickBooks by Intuit and My Blind Spot (May 2014)
- Braille Sense U2 Mini from HIMS: Good Things Do Come in Small Packages (May 2014)
- iPhone and Android Apps Keep you Up to Date with the Latest News (May 2014)
- ScanSnap SV600 Overhead Scanner from Fujitsu: Turning the Page on Text Recognition (July 2014)
- The Giraffe Reader Scanner Stand and the Prizmo Scanning App for iOS (October 2014)
- Computers for the Blind: Opening Worlds—One Computer at a Time (October 2014)
- KNFB Reader for iOS: Does This App Live up to All the Hype? (November 2014)
- TactileView: Leveling the Playing Field With Raised Images (November 2014)
- A Comparative Review of the SmartLux Digital and Pebble HD Handheld Video Magnifiers (November 2014)
- A Review of Prodigi Duo, the Electronic Magnifier by HumanWare: When Desktop and Handheld Magnifiers Meet (December 2014)
- An Evaluation of the Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator (December 2014)
An Evaluation of the HIMS E-bot PRO Remote Controlled Video Magnifier with OCR, Computer and Tablet Compatibility, and Wi-Fi Capability (February 2015)
- Voice Dream Writer: An iOS Editor with Accessibility Extras (March 2015)
- Dolphin Guide from Dolphin Computer Access: A Suite of Access Programs that Simplify Computer Use (June 2015)
- The Blackboard Online Coursework and Learning Environment: Accessibility Reports from Two College Students and One Instructor (July 2015)
- Evaluation of the Leasey (Learn, Enable, Advance -- So Easy!) Computer Scripts from Hartgen Consultancy (July 2015)
- Stepping Over The Threshold: Windows 10 in 10,000 Words, Thoroughly Reviewed (August 2015)
- Overthrowing the Desktop: The Revolution 22-inch All-In-One Magnifier and Tablet (October 2015)
- An Overview of iOS 9 (November 2015)
- College Success: More than Textbooks from Learning Ally (November 2015)
- sitecues from Ai Squared: Magnification and Speech for Websites (November 2015)
- Learning to Use VoiceOver on the Mac and iOS with Audio Tutorials from Mac for the Blind (December 2015)
- The Orion TI-30XS MultiView Talking Scientific Calculator from Orbit Research and American Printing House for the Blind: Calculating the Value (March 2016)
- An Overview of NVDA Remote Access, a Free Add-on for the Non Visual Desktop Access Screen Reader (March 2016)
- The MLWordTips App from Lynette Tatum: Quick Keyboard Tips for Microsoft Word (April 2016)
- HumanWare Prodigi Connect 12 Unites Magnification and Mobile Computing (May 2016)
- Choose the Right Electronic Magnifier, Part 1: Identify Your Priorities (June 2016)
- The Talking DAISY Book & Media Player from Accessible Electronics (June 2016)
- Tackling the Research Paper: Tips and Tools for Success for People with Vision Loss (July 2016)
- Accessible Reading on Multiple Devices with Capti Narrator (July 2016)
- A Review of the 6dot Label Maker from LoganTech: Potentially a Braille User's Dream (July 2016)
- Free, Massive Open Online Course from Georgia Institute of Technology: Information and Communication Technology Accessibility (July 2016)
- Choosing the Right Electronic Magnifier, Part 2: Larger Magnifier Systems, Specs, and Features (August 2016)
- Choose the Right Electronic Magnifier, Part 3: Handheld Magnifiers (September 2017)
- Book Review: Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 9: Step-by-Step Instruction for Blind Users, by Anna Dresner (September 2017)
- What's New in MacOS Sierra and the New MacBooks (December 2016)
- CAPTCHA Be Gone from Accessible Apps Removes Another Barrier to Accessibility (March 2017)
- There's No Place like Google Home: A Review of Google's Voice Assistant (March 2017)
- A Review of the Audio Tutorial for the Google Suite of Products by Mystic Access (March 2017)
- Live on the Edge, or Have an Ultra Lifestyle?: An In-depth Review of HIMS and BAUM Braille Displays (April 2017)
- Accessible Reading: A review of The Abundant Bookshelf by Judith Dixon and A First Look at Downpour, a New Source for Audiobooks (May 2017)
- Speaking of Amazon: An Update on Amazon Accessibility and Using the NVDA Screen Reader with Kindle for PC (May 2017)