University of Iowa Health Care

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

EyeRounds.org

Vision Rehabilitation Assistive Technology

Mark E. Wilkinson, OD and Khadija S. Shahid, OD, MPH

Updated November 2019; Original April 17, 2017

Low vision technology is now changing at a rapid pace. With this in mind, the information in this document will be updated as often as possible.

Out of the Box Technology

Smart phones and tablets are helping people with vision loss do many things that in the past had to be done with more costly, stand-alone assistive devices.  

iPhone® and iPad®

The iPhone and iPad are currently two of the best low vision devices available. They are the most popular smart phones and tablets among individuals who are visually impaired. This is because the iPhones and iPad have built in accessibility options including VoiceOver, a screen reader that lets a person know auditorally what is happening on their multi-touch screen and helps the person navigate the screen even if they have no vision. Additionally, iPhones and iPads have Siri® for voice commands.  

VoiceOver and a number of other accessibility options on the iPhones and iPads can be activated by going to Settings, next General, followed by Accessibility. In Accessibility, you will find a variety of vision enhancing as well as speech options.  

With VoiceOver on an iPhone or iPad, you can run your finger over the screen and the phone or tablet will name the app you are touching. 

The iPhone® is currently one of the best low vision devices available.

Android

Accessibility of Android devices is improving, but it is not yet at the level of the iDevices yet.

Apps for Smart Phones and Tablets

JoinMe iis an app used in the classroom or any other place where an electronic whiteboard is being used that is hooked up to a projector or a computer.   With this app, the person with vision loss can view what is being presented on the electronic white board on their smart phone or tablet. 

For additional information on the go to www.join.me.

JoinMe is an app used in the classroom or any other place where an electronic whiteboard that is hooked up to a projector or a computer is being use

SuperVision + Magnifier, and Brighter and Bigger are two of the best, free apps for making the iPhone work like a video magnifier.  

Better Vision, SuperVision + Magnifier, and Brighter and Bigger are three of the best free apps for making the iPhone work like a video magnifier.  

Seeing AI is a free app that turns the visual road into an audible experience. This app allows the user to use their smart phone camera to recognize friends and their facial expressions, as well as read documents, bar codes and currency.   

TapTapSee is an app for IPhone and IPad devices. This is an object identifier app. For additional information go to www.taptapseeapp.com.

TapTapSee is an app for iPhone® and iPad® devices.   This is an object identifier app.   For additional information go to www.taptapseeapp.com

KNFB reader: $99.00. This is another text to speech app for the iPhone. It can read PowerPoint slides from 25' away.

KNFB reader: $99.00.  This is the best text to speech app for the iPhone®.  It can read PowerPoint slides from 25' away.

EyeNote®: is a free iPhone app for naming currency.

EyeNote®: is a free iPhone app for naming currency.

IDEAL Currency Identifier®: is a free currency Identifier app for Android devices.

US Currency Reader

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), in partnership with the Library of Congress' National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), launched the free U.S. Currency Reader Program in 2015 as a means for blind or visually impaired individuals to denominate U.S. currency. 

The currency reader, called iBill®, is a small hand-held device that denominates all U.S. currency in circulation in one of three modes:  a clear natural voice, a pattern of tones, or a pattern of vibrations for privacy. The vibration mode also assists people who are deaf and blind in identifying a note's denomination. The device uses a single AAA battery, which is included.

The currency reader, called iBill®, is a small hand-held device that denominates all U.S. currency in circulation in one of three modes:  a clear natural voice, a pattern of tones, or a pattern of vibrations for privacy.

Currency reader applications are processed and readers are shipped by the National Library Service – Library of Congress, which also administers a free library program of braille and audio materials for U.S. residents and citizens living abroad.

To request a free currency reader, individuals should complete the application located on Bureau of Engraving and Printing's (BEP) website at  www.bep.gov/uscurrencyreaderform.html  or call (844) 815-9388, toll free to request an application be mailed. 

Music

Music Zoom ($19.95) is an iPad app specifically designed for musicians who are visually impaired. It allows the musician to view their music with as much magnification as they need. And, using a wireless foot switch, they can advance through their music while keeping both hands on their instrument. 

 Simple menus with large fonts and high contrast controls allow the musician to customize the appearance of their music to best suit their needs. They can adjust the magnification to make the music as big as they want/need it. If white on black contrast is easier to see, tapping the "invert colors" button will switch to reversed contrast. The scrolling speed of the music and working distance can be matched to each musicians' preferences and the demands of the piece.   

A wide variety of iPad mounts exist, allowing the musician to attach their iPad to a standard microphone boom stand if desired. This will enable the musician to position their iPad at a comfortable viewing distance, while not obstructing their instrument. 
For more information, visit www.MusicZoomApp.com

Music Zoom ($19.95) is an iPad® app specifically designed for musicians who are visually impaired. It allows the musician to view their music with as much magnification as they need. And, using a wireless foot switch, they can advance through their music while keeping both hands on their instrument. 

Other

NFB-NEWSLINE is a free service available to anyone who is blind, visually impaired or print-disabled. It offers over 400 publications to choose from, including ten national newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, sixteen breaking news sources such as CNN, BBC, and ESPN Online, fourteen international newspapers including Financial Times and Vancouver Sun, and countless state newspapers, as well as fifty magazines like Family Circle, Time, Consumer Reports, Jet, Guideposts, Smithsonian, and more. NFB-NEWSLINE also offers emergency weather alerts, seven day forecasts and more.  

There are a number of access methods including touch-tone telephone, a free mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod, on Demand emails, a secure website, and a variety of portable players including the NLS Talking Book player and Victor Reader Stream.  

To subscribe call (866) 504-7300 or visit:  www.nfbnewslineonline.org/signup.htm

ABBYY TextGrabber: is a $4.99 app that scans, translates and saves your chosen text or QR-codes from virtually any printed material. Simply take a picture of the text in 60+ languages or QR-codes and immediately hear it spoken aloud via VoiceOver. Can translate it to/from 100+ languages.

Voice Dream Reader is a desktop-class portable text to speech app that reads PDF, word documents, eBooks, articles, and web pages. Cost is $14.99.  For additional information, go to  www.voicedream.com

Wearable Technology

  1. OrCam www.orcam.com
    • OrCam: $3,500.00 – This device attaches to the user's glasses.
      • Works as a wearable text to speech scanning device with audio output.
      • Can be used to read messages on tablets/smart phones, computers, and all typed materials. 
      • Identifies money.
      • External battery attaches via a power cord to unit on glasses 
    • OrCam My Eye 2: $4,500.00 - This device attaches to the user's glasses.
      • Works as a wearable text to speech scanning device with audio output.
      • Adds facial and object/product recognition and voice commands to what the OrCam can do.
      • No power cord or unit. Has an internal battery.
  2. eSight www.esighteyewear.com
    • eSight 3: $6,000.00 or can lease for $99.00 per mont
    • Can adjust contrast and magnification.
    • Can be used for distance, intermediate and near vision enhancement. 
    • Has OCR capabilities
    • Can return within 15 days with a $500.00 restocking fee.
  3. Jordy - enhancedvision.com
    • Jordy: $2,500.00
    • Can adjust contrast and magnification.
    • Can be used for distance, intermediate and near vision enhancement. 
    • Can return within 30 days for full refund
  4. IrisVision
    • $2,950.00
    • Can adjust contrast and magnification as well as size of area to be magnified.
    • Can be used for distance, intermediate and near vision enhancement.
    • Can return within 30 days for full refund.

Training and Support

Applevis at www.applevis.com is the Apple community-powered website for user's who are blind or visually impaired using Apple's range of Mac computers, the iPhones, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV and Apple Watch

Video support for a variety of products, including:

  • iPhone/iPad/Apple watch/Apple TV
  • Android phones
  • Mac computers
  • Microsoft Windows/Office

Can be found at https://hadley.edu/InstructionalVideos/

Udemy at  www.udemy.com/courses/offers free online courses for accessible options on iDevices and Android devices.

LookTel at  www.looktel.com offers a VoiceOver tutorial to teach you how to use VoiceOver.  

Additionally, LookTel has the following iDevice apps; Money Recognizer, Recognizer (for objects), and Breadcrumbs GPS (to help with mobility). 

For additional information go to http://webeye.ophth.uiowa.edu/eyeforum/tutorials/vision-rehabilitation-technology/index.htm

 

last updated: 12/4/2019
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