Tools for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired to Access Electronic Information

It is estimated that there are over 10 million vision-impaired people in the United States today. For children pursuing their education, being visually impaired can be a challenge, but now there are many options available for assistance that we never had before.

So much of the information that we receive these days is obtained through digital technology, and assistive technology tools are available to help people who are blind or visually impaired get access to information using computers and other electronic devices.

All current operating systems have built-in accessibility options for different browsers and devices. The software will provide information on how to adjust settings to change colors or font sizes or even access text-to-speech options, and software is available to increase accessibility and choices, including tools for accessing print information.

Some of the main accessibility tools available now for use by children and students of all ages include:

Screen Magnification Software

There are numerous software programs available that allow an individual to magnify what is shown on the computer screen. Most of these programs allow users to increase the size of the image on the screen, change the color of the background and the font type, select enlarged or different color cursors and arrows, and have some type of TTS (text-to-speech) capability.

Screen-Reading Software

The use of screen-reading software, known as TTS or text-to-speech, enables a user to hear the text that is displayed on a screen. These programs use a sound card in the computer to produce the speech, which can be heard through speakers or headphones. The user controls the screen-reading technology through keyboard commands to choose what information on the screen to read aloud and to control how it is read. Interpreting photos, images and other graphics is a challenge but technology is getting better and better at handling dynamic visual information.

Refreshable Braille Displays

A refreshable braille display, also known as a braille terminal, is an electro-mechanical device for displaying braille characters. It allows the user to feel a braille representation of the text that is on the computer screen. The display consists of plastic pins that are raised and lowered to form the corresponding braille characters as the cursor moves across the print on the screen. Braille displays are typically 20, 40, or 80 braille cells in length. Braille displays must be used in combination with screen-reading software.