Coping with Blindness: Assistive Technology

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What tools are availalbe to give me access to information?

Coping with Blindness: Assistive Technology

There are many different types of assistive technology available to give blind people access to books, computers and other electronic devices. These programs work on an off-the-shelf computer or personal data assistant (PDA). Electronic book readers also allow blind people access to books in a form other than Braille.

Video magnifiers (closed-circuit television or CCTV) project magnified images onto a video monitor, a TV screen or a computer monitor. The text can be changed from black on white to white on black, making it easier for someone who is not completely blind to read. If the user doesn't have enough vision to read for a significant amount of time, eye fatigue and other physical problems may be present. Prior to purchasing a video magnifier, the individual should have a low-vision evaluation. A low-vision specialist can also help determine which video magnifier is appropriate.

Optical character recognition (OCR) systems scan printed text, then convert it to recognized characters and words and sends the information to a synthesizer, which then “reads” the scanned document. OCR systems also use a spell checker and a lexicon, much like a standard word processing program, and will fix spelling errors on the fly, so that the correct word is read back to the listener.

Magnification programs for the computer screen are also available, though many sites are programmed with a “change text size” button. When the user clicks on this, the text becomes larger or smaller, depending on the person's needs.



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