Whether you're just thinking of getting a computer, or if you've been using one for years and years, you may not be clear of all the options that are available, or know everything you need to about how to use a computer as a blind or partially sighted person.

That's where we can help - read on to enhance your knowledge!

Types of computer 

If you are new to computers, our beginner's guide to computers, laptops and tablets offers a great starting point for choosing the right computer for your needs.

To sum up, there are four general types of computer:

  • Desktops - that need a fair amount of space and remain in one place, but can be very powerful and flexible.
  • Laptops - which contain a battery so don't need to be plugged in all the time, and are small and light enough to carry while being capable of doing almost everything a desktop can.
  • Netbooks - which are ultra-small and light laptops, used mainly for the web.
  • Tablets - even smaller and lighter than netbooks, with a touchscreen instead of a keyboard and mouse, and running "apps" rather than the full-blown applications that desktops run. We've got a whole lot of information about tablet devices!

Making computers accessible

If you already have a computer, we have lots of information about how you can make your computer accessible.

Step 1: built in options

First, check out the built in accessibility options  on your computer. You can use these to change the size and colour of things on the screen to make them easier to see, or perhaps even speak them so that you don't have to use the screen. These options come with the computer and are therefore free. All you need to do is find them and turn them on!

Step 2: free assistive technology

Second, if the options within the computer aren't enough, you can download free "assistive technology" software that can magnify or speak the screen contents. It will be limited, but it may be enough to allow you to write documents, send and receive emails and surf the web. We've gathered some information on the more popular free assistive technology applications to help you decide if one of them may be what you need.

Step 3: paid for assistive technology

Third, if none of the free stuff works, there are a number of products you can buy. Such commercial software usually has more features and better support than the free varieties. Commercial hardware includes high visibility keyboards, large monitors, and braille displays which can replace a monitor. For people in work or study, funding may be available for pay for this kind of equipment.

Putting it together - other resources

Getting a computer set up and working as you want can be tricky, especially if you're new to computers yourself. The Technical Support Squad can help you here, and you can contact them through the Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

We've also got a support page with some other practical information such as some handy keyboard shortcuts for popular programs, and an introduction to


RNIB Webwatchers are a group of blind and partially sighted people who use the internet on various devices. They provide useful feedback on websites and apps and help us keep tabs on what online services people use and like. 

Webwatchers correspond by email, and sometimes contribute to our TechKnowMore blog. If you would like to become a Webwatcher, please email [email protected].