blind awareness month/ white cane day part four: asistive technology

Hi everyone,

On to my second to last post around aspects of being blind.

Asistive or adaptive technology is really anything that helps a person with any disability do something that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

The most basic example of this and a common question is using the computer. You don’t know how many people I’ve talked to or other blind people I know have talked to who still don’t believe a blind person can use a computer! Remember the guy I talked his ear off to earlier in the week on paratransit? I think he has some mental disabilities, but he could not really get it that I could use a computer or read and be blind. And there are a lot of residents here who still don’t get that even after three years and many interactions later.

Anyway. Yes I can use the computer very well. How this is possible is there’s a ton of different software that allows a blind or visually impaired person to get access to whatever’s on the screen. This category of software is known as screen readers.

There are many different types to match people’s needs. Some people with low vision just need stuff on the screen to be visually more accessible. So like with contrast so the words stand out against the background, or a really big phont.

A couple of these types of screen readers are called zoom text and window eyes. They do have a speech component which is helpful to some people especially if they’re continuing to lose their sight, or just really can’t stand looking at the screen no matter what it looks like. I have a friend who teaches this and they said so many of the class was so relieved that they could actually be on the computer and do what they need to do and not have major headakes.

There are other screen readers that have more of a speech component. And when I say speech component I mean that it nbasically reads the text on the screen. And instead of using the mouse the person learns keyboard commands to basically do anything they need to do on the computer. Write in word, go online, e-mail, power point, anything you can imagine.

The one barrier often is websites. Now that screen readers have really taken off, the majority of websites are accessible. Meaning when they’re creating the website which I don’t even really have a clue what goes into that LOL, but while they’re doing that they work into the computer codes or whatever ways that this would interact with whatever screen readers so that the person can navigate and use the site like a sighted person would. If it’s a site with a ton of images, or visual weirdness it gets really hard to have to make that accessible. If the person is really visually minded when they built it it’s hard to change that perspective to realizing that people need another way to access this that doesn’t involve colors or flashing buttons or it looking pretty in the screen.

So whenever you see a link on a site that says accessibility that’s what it’s talking about.

Before moving on here are some links about screen readers

List of screen readers disabled world explains all this far better than me!

videos. How blind people use computers

Screen reader demo

Ok I think you all get the point.


Notetakers are devices that are portable and where a blind person can be able to take notes, duh, quickly and easily as a sighted person would. It’s like pen and paper for the blind.

I don’t know when the first notetaker

Was made obviously it was really basic. Some are smaller some are larger, But they all have a case with a strap on it. The ones I’ve used must be the size of a purse because I’ve had people be like what’s in your purse? Don’t forget your purse!

They also must look like some kinda electronic keyboard/ musical instrument. Because that’s another reaction I get right away.

Anyway the main things about them is that they all have speech. Kinda robotic voices even the latest ones, or at least the one I have still hate the voice. And it has either a braille keyboard, which is like the keyboard on the braille writer (see part two of the series). They also have ones with keyboards that are like computer keyboards so whatever people,e prefer.

Like I said the first ones were pretty basic. Somewhere along the line they added a braille display. Which is basically a panel under the keyboard where as you’re typing you can read what’s being written in braille. Before that I can tell you it’s really hard to edit stuff if you’re just hearing it spoken and not being able to physically read it. At least for me it was.

So to give you more of a picture we will have some demonstrations. Thank you to everyone who makes these videos! You’re making my job a whole lot easier!

Page on a couple different notetakers and you can buy them

Braille n speak This guy sounds funny and so he answered my question notetakers have been around since 1987 a year before this girl came to life!

Braille note mpower demo

Braillenote touch of the future!

braille sense u2

Braille lite

OK so there are like a million different notetakers! In my quick search as I’m writing here I’ve found videos about stuff I haven’t heard of. Which isn’t really that big a deal because while I’m not low tech, I really stick pretty rigidly to what I know. So don’t really keep up to date with the latest stuff. Even when my bestie Robbie sends me e-mail after e-mail on teaching me different stuff I usually just ignore it LOL!

So anyway the videos I put up are the kinda general idea of different ones. The braille n speak, braille lite, and braillenote mpower are the ones I’ve mainly been using. I have a braille sense as a backup, with a broken on switch. But I’ve pretty much stuck to those three.

These notetakers can do a toon of stuff that surprise, I don’t use them for! They have games and you can go online and e-mail and all kinds of stuff. I use them for downloading books and writing stuff. The one new high high tech thing I’m gonna do is hook my ipod touch up to the braille sense. And read kindle books that way and maybe learn how to use it a bit better so Robbie will stop teasing me and sending tutorials LOL!

Which reminds me, obbveously with the recent craze of the iphones, upods, ipads ETC they’ve worked very hard to make those accessible. Voiceover is like apple’s screen reader. Have always used a PC will never be a mac personmy laptop had a major virus and I went on this school library computer and it was some kinda mac pc combined. OMG that was a Sammy nightmare. Called the disability office crying I still can’t get my homework done and you sent me across campus for this! Literally security had to drive me.

But anyway that’s how I feel about I stuff. Though I did save up $200 and got my ipod touch a couple years back. Maybe a year ago. I wanted it mainly for kindle books and I’m really glad I did. Everyones like why don’t you use it for other stuff I’m like umm I don’t know. Sammy doesn’t like change. New stuff is frustrating. So yeah.

Lastly downloading books.

So thank goodness we now don’t have to carry around huge backpacks of braille books. Or tumble down the stairs with them. The library of congress has a service in every state that’s for the blind. So eery state has a library just for the blind with braille, large print or talking books. Basically audio books you put in a special player.

Then somewhere along the way some amazing people developed a site called bookshare.

Where for $50 a year you can have access to this huge library of books. And what’s cool is you can request anything you want. Volunteers or staff will use a scanner and OCR software (didn’t talk about that, ahh this post is getting too long), and get the book in. And so people can download the book to their computer or notetaker and read it in whatever format works for them.

Here’s a link to the national library service for the blind

Ok before this turns into a novel and people get really bored I’ll close out on this topic. Obveously there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t covered. But this gives you a general idea. Last post will be a summary and a chance for you all to fill in my hgaps, give your own experiences and generally have fun.

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