Assistive & Adaptive Technology

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology, refers to a specially programmed software or piece of equipment used to fulfil a specific task.

This could be a walking frame to aid mobility or screen reader to access the web.  All products referred to on this page are related to eyesight loss only.  Technology has increased in the visually impaired world over the last few years enabling text messages to be sent, emails read out, measurements weighed and our favourite  programmes audio described etc.

There are 3 basic ways of accessing assistive technology:

1.  Native, system based assistive technology. 

This technology is available on everyday consumer products. It is usually activated through a settings menu.  Examples include IPhone 4s Voice Over, Kindles Text To Speech, Audio Description activation on set top boxes etc.

2  External Add Ons 

This is a technology extension to general consumer products. They are usually installed via software packs and can be delivered via CDs, DVDs, memory sticks, dongles and downloads.  Screen readers like Jaws and Guide installed on a Windows PC are examples of this.

3  Specialised assistive technology 

Refers to a piece of hardware which has specifically been designed to assist.  Unlike the above,  hardware and devices are specially designed and manufactured for a specific assistive use. An example is weighing scales that speaks measurements, talking watches etc. They are categorised as things only chosen to provide assistance to the visually impaired person.

 What other kind of assistive technology is available?

Assistive technology is a concept designed to be accessed in the home, office, school, college, university, social events or places of interest.

Audio description - This covers a multitude of areas such as cinema headsets, digital television access, handsets used to navigate places of interest such as museums etc.   It is classed as an add-on, an external assistive product it is a the bequest of the organization as to how it is applied.  A cinema may only have audio description on a certain film for example or not all programmes may be described on TV or not all exhibits listed.

The Kindle as an app on a computer or through the specific hardware allows access to a variety of newspapers, journals, magazines from Kindle store.   However when selecting any publication listen out for “Text to speech” as not all can be read aloud with Kindles assistive technology.

There is a variety of smart phones offering android or system based technologies. They all differ in what options they can offer a visually impaired user, from the ability to speak a name to searching the web see list of products for more info.

Household products such as weighing scales , guided bread knife etc are available on line or RNIB. 

CCTV and scanners are a source of magnification and reading equipment.  There is a wide variety of types of scanners which is reflected in their prices.  These can often be tried out at local societies for the visually impaired or by visiting RNIB shop.

Professional Vision Services are a Hertfordshire based technology company.  Offering products compatible with both Apple and Microsoft products.  Hardware and software can be demonstrated.  For more info contact Philipa  [email protected]
Many public places, such as museums, art galleries etc, offer specially designed tours, either using handsets containing audio description or private guided tours,  for visually impaired visitors, see news and Friends of … Vocaleyes link provide a list of events providing audio description  and touch tours.  Once registered, they provide a newsletter with more info.  All theatres have disabled access to ground level auditoriums.  They offer reduced rates to accompanied  registered blind visitors, often priority seating. 

Many restaurants provide braille menus and will give priority seating.

Some  gyms offer a “Buddy” service in which a visually impaired person is guided around for a certain period.  They must also provide  an adequate place for a guide dog to be settled.  Provisions made for disabled clients vary  i.e. some might provide access time for disabled people to use the swimming pool. So it is always worth asking.

Banks must offer chip and sign debit cards on request if using a chip and pin machine is difficult.

Shops must treat VIP customers using chip and signature cards with equal respect and assist if necessary.  All card readers are programmed to recognise chip and signature cards and print out a receipt to be signed.  The cashier then takes out the card and checks the signatures.  They keep the signed copy and a printed receipt is given to the customer with the customers card.  Some banks offer aids to visually impaired people such as a note identifier, a cheque book guide etc - always ask your bank what they can provide.

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