If you have recently experienced sight loss, you may not be aware of the range of assistive technology available to help you access computers and read printed documents.

Using a computer with low vision

There are many ways in which partially sighted people use computers. For some people the answer may be as simple as a larger monitor or changing the appearance of the programs to display large fonts and icons or change the colour scheme and so on. Other people will use a piece of magnification software to increase the size of a small part of the screen to fill the viewable area. Some people may want support from synthetic speech to read text to them.

Video magnifiers

Video magnifiers, or CCTVs as they are sometimes called, use a camera and a screen to magnify things electronically. They are mostly used for reading and writing but can help with any task where magnification would help. There are several kinds of video magnifier available, including models that can share a monitor with a computer, portable models and units that can focus on distant objects such as signs and notice boards.

Using a computer with no vision

It is quite possible for someone with no useful vision to use a computer. Most blind computer users navigate through the system and control programs from the keyboard have a screen reader to read text from the screen by artificial speech. For those unable to use a standard keyboard there are adapted keyboards and voice recognition technologies available.

Digital voice recorders

People often need to be able to take down a quick message, write a note, etc. A digital voice recorder will allow you to record and store personal notes.

Reading aids

Blind people requiring access to print can use a scanner with optical character recognition (OCR) technology to convert print in to electronic text that can then be read by synthetic speech technology.

Braille displays

Some blind computer users use a braille display to access the information on the computer screen. These can be used in addition to speech.

Braille embossers

If a blind person who also reads braille requires hard copy information (this could be to deliver a presentation, or to refer to at a meeting) this can be produced using a braille embosser and transcription software.

Low-tech solutions

Alternatively, it is not always possible to use access technology to solve every problem you might encounter. For example, many photocopiers use a touch screen display to select copying options. In this situation it is possible to use a "low tech" solution to the problem, so it may be possible to get a tactile overlay for the screen or various functions could be programmed into the copier for you to easily select via the keypad.

Further information

We have lots of helpful guides and tips on technology in our Technology Resource Hub.