Low Vision Intervention: Decision Making for Acquiring and Integrating Assistive Technology

Fig. 22.1
Handheld and stand magnifiers

Closed-Circuit Television

Magnification, lighting, and contrast are also the main features on CCTV, which many people with vision impairment regard as a life-changing device (Copolillo and Teitelman 2005). The user places an item on a platform below the magnifier; the item is enlarged to a set magnification and projected onto a television screen directly in front of the user (Fig. 22.2). For many, the cost of these items is an inhibiting factor, especially in health-care systems where AT is not reimbursed, as is the case for most health insurance in the USA.


Fig. 22.2
Closed-circuit television

Personal Computers and Computer Software

Personal computers (PCs) and the Internet have become popular for people with mild-to-moderate visual acuity problems. Many software systems purchased with PCs have built-in disability resources that can be turned on by the user, allowing for such adaptations as changes in background and print, and icon color and size. Other software, such as Zoom-Text, Jaws, and Kurzweil, are commercially ­available. These screen-magnification devices provide some variety of contrast adjustment, and audible text, all features that may be appealing to persons with vision impairments . When used in conjunction with voice-driven software, such as ­Dragon ­Naturally Speaking, word processing, text messaging, e-mailing, and web-based work and consumer activities can be managed without need of a keyboard or mouse (Nuance.com 2013).

Mobile Devices: Communication Access and Vision-Related Apps

When touch-screen mobile devices first emerged in the mid-2000s, their smooth glass surfaces and lack of a mechanical keyboard seemed to ignore the needs of people with vision impairment. How was one to navigate virtual buttons on a glass screen? Apple, the manufacturer of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod soon addressed this deficiency, however, by providing a pair of accessibility settings that have rapidly made mobile devices navigable. The gesture-based screen reader setting VoiceOver reads aloud anything onscreen. When passing a finger across the screen, a single tap generates a spoken description of any app icon touched. A double tap activates the app. Users with vision impairment can quickly learn to navigate a touch screen using this setting. VoiceOver also reads text messages, documents, and any other written material that appears onscreen. The voice-activated digital assistant Siri is a useful companion to VoiceOver. When activated with a tap-and-hold gesture on the home button, Siri follows spoken word commands to search the Internet, record reminder alerts, set calendar dates, or record and send text messages. With these apps, vision-impaired people can access virtually all of the same mobile device features available to sighted users. Users of Google Android OS devices can do the same, using an accessibility setting called TalkBack. This app provides voice navigation, screen reading, and on some devices a form of vibration feedback onscreen (this feature, known as haptic touch, selectively vibrates a portion of the glass screen to simulate a button).

A growing number of add-on apps are designed to assist users with low vision , many of them built to take advantage of onboard cameras and the VoiceOver or TalkBack settings. As noted previously, apps designed to magnify text or images use mobile device cameras to allow the smartphone or tablet to work as a magnifying scanner. Other apps read paper money denominations, identify objects, colors and light sources, or add voice-driven directions to GPS-based maps. In most cases, these apps are inexpensive, allowing a user to acquire a suite of ATs onboard a smartphone or tablet that are quite versatile and affordable, providing users’ unprecedented access to news, communication options, and the world around them. See Table 22.1 for a list of apps designed for users with vision impairment (iTunes 2013; Playgoogle.com 2013).

Table 22.1
Mobile device applications for people with vision impairment


Cost (US)

What it does

iOS (Apple products)

Looktel Money Reader

$ 9.99

Uses camera on iOS devices to read denominations of paper money out loud. Reads dollars and euros

TapTapSee or oMoby


Uses camera and Wi-Fi to identify any object

Uses camera to magnify any observed object or material


$ 1.99

Spoken word reminders



Set medication reminders using VoiceOver; receive spoken word prompts

Ariadne GPS

$ 5.99

This app links Google Maps and the VoiceOver accessibility feature on iOS devices to read aloud locations and directions. You can drag your finger over a map for spoken map reading. Crossing a street causes your iPhone to vibrate. You can use it to find stops on a bus, too

Voice Brief

$ 2.99

One touch reads aloud email, weather, news, Facebook feeds, etc. in clear and natural voices. Free lite version if you want to try it out

VM Alert

$ 1.99

This app uses the camera on your iOS device to detect motion and alerts you with a gentle audio alarm

List Recorder

$ 0.99

Works with VoiceOver and Braille displays, allowing you to make audio or text lists

Talking Scientific Calculator

Free lite or $ 4.99 full

Uses VoiceOver to read calculations aloud. Also has brightly lit enlarged display


Free onboard

Turns screen into a bright flashlight

Light Detector

$ 0.99

Uses camera to track light sources, emitting a sound that intensifies as you approach the light (good for finding exits, windows, turning off lamps, etc.)

Color ID


Spoken word identification of colors. English or Spanish



A clock app that chimes the hour, half hour, and quarter hour

Vision Sim


This app demonstrates what it is like to have various visual impairments. Point the device at anything, and the camera dims appropriately, using filters that simulate the impairment

Android OS Apps

Dragon Dictation


If you do not have Siri or use an Android device, dictate to this app and it will create a text version for you to use (also for iOS)

Dragon Go


Again, works like Siri. Speak into your device with the app open and it will search the web for you (“Where is the nearest ice cream shop,” for instance). Does not, however, speak to you, as Siri does (also for iOS)

Google Goggles


Works with camera, TalkBack, and Wi-Fi to identify objects, paper money, etc



Uses camera to magnify objects

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May 21, 2017 | Posted by in GENERAL | Comments Off on Low Vision Intervention: Decision Making for Acquiring and Integrating Assistive Technology
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