Disability Visual Aids: New Products & Reviews


Visual aids and adaptive technology products and their functions that enhance the lives of people with disabilities.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Visual Communication

Communication through a visual aid and described as the conveyance of ideas and information in forms that can be read or looked upon. Visual communication in part or whole relies on vision, and is primarily presented or expressed with two dimensional images, it includes: signs, typography, drawing, graphic design, illustration, Industrial Design, Advertising, Animation color and electronic resources.

There are 4 levels of visual function, according to the International Classification of Diseases:

  • Normal vision
  • Moderate visual impairment
  • Severe visual impairment
  • Blindness.

Main Document

There are often misconceptions about people with disabilities. They arise from the lack of knowledge of what people can do and what adaptive technology is available to the disabled.

As one with a disability I can tell you first hand how it is to have been labeled in a category. I was told that I would not be able to do this and that. Technology opened up a whole new world for me. Possibilities abounded to me that had not been there before.

A recent conversation comes to mind. I was speaking to a woman about the Non-Profit Foundation that I am a Co-Founder of. Our Foundation brings technology to the visually impaired and the disabled. We spoke about computer use. She told me that she thought that the visually impaired, especially the blind, did not use the computer and thus the internet. I explained to her the adaptive technology that is available for them to use.

This is one example of how there are misconceptions about disabled persons. We will look at some of the adaptive technology and the functions that enhance lives today.

A Braille reader is used as an input device on a personal computer. This is direct touch for embossed point on Braille paper by an isolated thin metal wire which can connect to any other large/small computers.

A (CCTV) or closed-circuit television system uses a stand-mounted or handheld video camera that projects a magnified image onto a video monitor, a television (TV) screen, or a computer monitor.

Braille Displays operate by raising and lowering different combination's of pins electronically to produce in Braille format what appears on a portion of a computer screen. They show up to 80 characters from the screen and are refreshable. The Braille display sits on the user's desk. The advantage of the Braille display in comparison to synthetic speech is in its direct access to information. They also check format, spacing and spelling.

Electronic Braille note takers are small, portable devices with Braille keyboards for entering information. They use a speech synthesizer or a Braille display for output. The user then enters the information on the Braille keyboard and has the option of transferring it to a computer with more memory, reviewing it using the built in speech synthesizer or Braille display, or printing it on a Braille or on a printer.

Screen readers that tell the synthesizer what to say. The synthesizers used with computers are text-to-speech systems. Their programming includes all the phonemes and grammatical rules of a language. This allows them to pronounce words correctly.

Screen magnifiers come with many options and can reach high levels of magnification. Today's full-featured screen magnification programs are compatible with Windows Vista, XP, and NT/2000. For those who need more than magnification, it is possible to use a built-in screen reader with today's screen magnifiers.

Low Browse: From Lighthouse International this is an add-on to Mozilla's Firefox browser. It enables visually impaired person to view web pages as the web author intended them to be viewed. This software also reads the text on those pages that is formatted to the viewers own needs.

WebAnywhere: WebAnywhere is a screen reader that is web based. The blind can access the web from any computer as long as it has a sound card.

So let us set those misconceptions aside. The proper knowledge and tools can aid those with disabilities to rise.

Visual Aids, Benefits for Everyday

On a recent trip to a training facility I learned about many products that bring about ease to a visually impaired persons everyday life. Coupled with that in my business there are also items that I recommend. Some of these are low cost and others are free. Note that I do not sell any of these products.

First I will start with the items and then describe software and a screen reader.

Medication Reminder Pill Bottles: These bottles have a recorder that speak instructions on how to take medications and what to do when you miss a dose. The pharmacist actually records the message. Average Price: $25.00

Vibrating Watch: Vibrating watches are wonderful to remind one of meeting and when to take medication or and other activity. Average Price: $100.00

Talking Cooking Thermometer (not just for cooking): There are many uses for this item such as for in the kitchen testing the temperature of the meat or when cooking water. Other uses include testing the temperature of a room, bath water, and heating pads. Average Price: $30.00

Braille Speaker-phone with Large Numbers: Phones of these types have large numbers with accompanying symbols in Braille as well as a visual ring indicator. Average Price: $33.00

Checks and Deposit Register: Checks in Large Print can be ordered for free from your local bank. Large check registers measuring 8.5 by 11 for the visually impaired are available for purchase. They make it easy to maintain your finances. Average Price $6.00

Talking Timers: There are many types that mention the end of timing. Some come with many different functions but of course the cost is much more. The price below is for the basic ones. The Average Price: $12.00

Talking Color Identifier: This is an invaluable wonderful tool for identifying colors that is preformed by placing the tool on the item. The color is then identified in speech. Items that the tool can be used on are clothing, fabric or many other surfaces. There are 14 types of colors normally identified with these products. Average Price: $140.00

Talking Calculators: They have large print and also speak. The lower priced ones have the basic functions of adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, and calculating percentages. Average Price: $20.00

Talking Books and Players: These are available for free through the Talking Books Services. Check your local Agencies.

White Canes: Most canes come in carbon fiber for lasting quality. They are best as collapsing types for they fit conveniently anywhere. Average Price: $35.00

Talking Clocks and Watches: There are several types of talking clocks and watches with excellent voice quality. Average Price: $15.00

Magnifiers: Magnifiers come is several sizes with different magnification depending upon what the users needs are, so prices do vary. Average Price: $10.00

Braille Tags: These are great for sewing into clothes to identify them. An example would be to determine the color or for matching purposes. They come in a package. Typically the amount is a quantity of 50. Average Price: $30.00

Low Browse: From Lighthouse International this is an add-on to Mozilla's Firefox browser. It enables visually impaired person to view web pages as the web author intended them to be viewed. This software also reads the text on those pages that is formatted to the viewers own needs.

WebAnywhere: WebAnywhere is a screen reader that is web based. The blind can access the web from any computer as long as it has a sound card. For more details please see: webanywhere.cs.washington.edu/

These are just a few things to make everyday simpler and easier for the visually impaired without the high cost. I am the Co-Founder of Visual Innovations & Solutions. We bring technology to the visually impaired, blind, and the disabled at visualinnovations.org

Vision Impairment Awareness Information

White awareness ribbonApproximately 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness. The white awareness ribbon represents blindness.

October is Blindness Awareness Month - World Blindness Awareness Month was established for every October to help people understand the realities of living without sight. As part of Eye Care Awareness Month people are encouraged to have an annual eye exam. October has also been declared Children's Vision Month to encourage parents to book annual eye exams for their children to ensure their eye health.

World Sight Day - A global event that focuses on bringing attention on blindness and vision impairment. It is observed on the second Thursday of October each year.

Coming Dates:

Quick Facts: Vision

20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/40 vision, it means that when you stand 20 feet away from the chart you can see what a normal human can see when standing 40 feet from the chart.

Legally Blind: In North America and most of Europe, legal blindness is defined as visual acuity (vision) of 20/200 (6/60) or less in the better eye with best correction possible. This means that a legally blind individual would have to stand 20 feet (6 m) from an object to see it with the same degree of clarity as a normally sighted person could from 200 feet (60 m).

Statistics: Vision Impairment

  • 80% of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured.
  • 82% of people living with blindness are aged 50 and above.
  • About 90% of the world's visually impaired live in low-income settings.
  • 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision.
  • The number of people visually impaired from infectious diseases has reduced in the last 20 years according to global estimates work.
  • Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of moderate and severe visual impairment; cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle- and low-income countries.

Latest Visual Aids Publications

Pennsylvania Libraries partner with Benetech/Bookshare to expand accessible reading opportunities for patrons with print disabilities.

Sonar Glasses mobility tool designed to increase safety and independence of blind and visually impaired, and to complement the white cane and guide dogs.

Miniature camera using OCR technology mounted on eyeglasses improves ability to read for legally blind.

Adult speakers blind from birth also gesture when they talk, and these gestures resemble gestures of sighted adults speaking the same language.

The Orbit braille reader is the first ever affordable refreshable braille reader that is also portable.

Project BLAID device will help fill gaps left by canes, dogs and basic GPS devices by providing users with information about their surroundings.

NFB and Amazon join forces to improve accessible reading experiences for students with vision disabilities.

Low-power chip processes 3-D camera data, could enable wearable device to guide the visually impaired.

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