Smartphone Apps, Tools, and Tutorials For The Visually Impaired

There are many apps, tools, and tutorials to help just about anyone leverage their smartphone for their own greater good. This blog will look at some of those options currently available to assist those living with a visual impairment.

Apps

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is an excellent online source to visit if you or a loved one live with a visual impairment. Info for each app is taken directly from the linked site. See the AFB link at the beginning of this paragraph to learn more about built-in apps and other apps available.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call. Every day, sighted volunteers lend their eyes to solve tasks big and small to help blind and low-vision people lead more independent lives. The app is available for both IOS and Android based phones.

Microsoft’s Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you, now available in English, Dutch, German, French, Japanese and Spanish. You can complete multiple tasks with one app and switch between channels to tune the description of what’s in front of the camera. This app can help you with short texts, audio clues for focusing barcodes or documents within the screen, recognize friends/faces, identify currency when paying with cash and so much more. Currently, this app is only available for download on Apple based (IOS) devices.

BARD Mobile are free apps available for both IOS and Android phones provided by the National Library of Science for the blind and physically handicapped. The linked FAQ page should provide insight to questions about using the site and/or the mobile devices.  The site provides books, musical scores, magazines, and other materials that can be rented free of charge.

Tools

There are many tools and accessories that can be purchased to turn your smartphone into a magical bag of tricks to assist you in most areas of life.  These are but three of the many choices currently available.

The WayAround Starter Pack is a combination of smartphone app and physical WayTags™ that allows you to tag and label nearly everything in your environment. Download the free app for either iPhone or Android onto your own smartphone. Attach one of the different shaped tags to clothing, food products, files, medicines and more. Create a label for that tag on your phone by either typing or recording your message for that tag into the WayAround app. Add custom description for any item plus more details like washing instructions or purchase and expiration dates. To identify that item in the future, scan your smart phone over the item, and the item information is displayed on the phone. WayAround works with the accessibility settings on your phone. To hear your information spoken aloud, turn on VoiceOver or TalkBack to hear that information out loud.

The Scanmarker Air allows you to scan a single line of text using the ScanMarker “pen” and send that text to either your smartphone or computer, using either Bluetooth or USB connectivity. You can scan either directly into the ScanMarker app or to an external application such as Word. Within the ScanMarker app, scanned text can be read back to you, without the need for a voiceover function. Scanned text can automatically be translated into one of 40+ languages.

The Orbit Tracker Card is a credit card sized tracker that can slide into a wallet slot. The Orbit family of Bluetooth trackers will help you locate valuable items in seconds using a free iOS or Android app. The various shaped trackers physically attach to a wander-prone item. From your smartphone, use the app to page that item when it goes missing within a 100-foot range. The tracking device can also be used to page the smartphone in reverse, even when the phone is in silent mode! From your phone, you can page that item when it goes missing. Stop losing your stuff!

Tutorials

If after looking at all this information and you’re still scratching your head at what to do and how to do it there are many built in phone features and outside tutorial sites that can be of assistance.

Android TalkBack is the Google screen reader included on Android devices. TalkBack gives you spoken feedback so that you can use your device without looking at the screen. The linked help page gives tips to get started using your Android device with TalkBack.

Android Access provides honest reviews about online games and apps that visually impaired people can use easily.

IOS VoiceOver (or via an Apple Support YouTube video) is a gesture-based screen reader—you can use iPhone even if you don’t see the screen. VoiceOver gives audible descriptions of what’s on your screen—from battery level, to who’s calling, to which app your finger is on. You can also adjust the speaking rate and pitch to suit your needs.

AppleVis is a community-powered website for blind and low-vision users of Apple’s range of Mac computers, the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

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