For those of us with sight, reading and writing are tasks we often take for granted. However, for blind and visually impaired individuals, these activities can be challenging. Thankfully, there are a variety of assistive technologies that can help make reading and writing more accessible. Let us explore some of the different reading methods used by blind and visually impaired individuals, as well as the technologies and techniques they use to write..
How do blind people read?
Here, we will explore some of the different reading methods used by blind and visually impaired individuals:
1. Braille: Braille is a system of raised dots that can be felt with the fingertips. Braille books and other materials are produced using special printers or embossers, and blind individuals can learn to read and write Braille using a slate and stylus. Braille displays are also available for use with computers and mobile devices. For example, the Refreshable Braille Display from HumanWare connects to a computer or smartphone via Bluetooth and displays Braille characters electronically.
2. Screen readers: Screen readers are software programs that read text aloud to the user. The user can navigate the text using keyboard commands, and the software will also read things like menus, buttons, and other on-screen elements. There are different types of screen readers available for different devices, such as:
- JAWS: A popular screen reader for Windows computers.
- NVDA: A free, open-source screen reader for Windows computers.
- VoiceOver: A built-in screen reader for Apple devices, such as Mac computers, iPhones, and iPads.
- TalkBack: A built-in screen reader for Android devices.
Screen readers can be used for a variety of tasks, including browsing the internet, reading books in Word or PDF format, and accessing email.
3. OCR Technology: OCR software is available for desktop and mobile devices and can be configured to recognize and convert printed text into a editable text .
- OCR software for desktop and laptop: Desktop OCR software is commonly used to process large documents, such as books or manuals, and to convert text from image files, such as scanned documents or photos. The process typically involves scanning the document or image using a scanner or multifunction printer (MFP) that includes a scanner. The scanner reads the text and converts it into a digital image. The OCR software then analyzes the image, recognizes the text, and converts it into editable digital text. The converted text can be edited, searched, and read aloud by a screen reader.
- Some popular OCR software options include Adobe Acrobat DC, ABBYY FineReader, and Kofax OmniPage.
- OCR for Mobile Devices: Mobile OCR technology uses the camera on a smartphone or tablet to capture an image of the printed text. The app then uses OCR technology to recognize and convert the text in real-time. The converted text can be edited, searched, and read aloud by a screen reader.
Here is a list of OCR applications for mobile and tablets:
- Lookout by Google for Android
- Envision AI for Android and iOS
- Seeing AI only for iOS
- Voice Dream Scanner for iOS
4. Large print: For individuals with some level of visual impairment, materials can be produced in large print format, with larger font sizes and more spacing between lines.
5. Audio libraries: Audio books are a convenient option for individuals with visual impairments or reading disabilities to access literature and other materials. They can be found in various formats, such as CDs, MP3 downloads, and online streaming.
Here are some sources of audio books:
Libraries and Non-Profit Organizations:
- Learning Ally: Provides audio books and other materials for individuals with visual impairments or reading disabilities. Members can access the audio books through their website or app, which includes features like bookmarking and narration speed control.
- Bookshare: Offers accessible e-books, audiobooks, and other reading materials for people with print disabilities. Members can access the audio books through their website or app.
- National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled: A free library program that provides reading materials in braille and audio formats. Members can access the audiobooks through their website or the BARD Mobile app.
- Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic: Offers audiobooks, textbooks, and other educational materials for individuals with visual impairments, learning disabilities, or other physical disabilities that prevent them from reading standard print. Members can access the audiobooks through their website or app.
- Librivox: A volunteer-run website that offers free public domain audiobooks, recorded by volunteers from around the world. Members can access the audiobooks through their website or app.
- Project Gutenberg: A volunteer-run website that offers over 60,000 free e-books, including many classic works of literature, that can be downloaded in audio formats. Members can access the .audiobooks through their website or app.
- Audible: A commercial service owned by Amazon that provides a vast collection of audiobooks and original audio content. Members can access the audiobooks through their app on smartphones and other mobile devices. The app provides features like narration speed control and bookmarking, enhancing the listening experience.
- Scribd: A subscription service that offers access to audiobooks, e-books, and other digital content for a monthly fee. Members can access their extensive collection of audiobooks through their app on smartphones and other mobile devices.
- Hoopla: A digital media service offered by public libraries that allows patrons to borrow audiobooks, e-books, and other digital content for free. Members can access the audiobooks through their website or app on smartphones and other mobile devices.
- OverDrive: Another digital media service offered by public libraries that allows patrons to borrow audiobooks and e-books for free. Members can access the audiobooks through their website or app on smartphones and other mobile devices.
how do blind people write?
Writing can be more challenging for blind and visually impaired individuals, but there are still a number of technologies and techniques that can help. These include:
1. Braille: As mentioned above, blind individuals can learn to write Braille using a slate and stylus.
2. Screen readers: As we learned above, screen readers are software programs that assist blind and visually impaired writers by reading text aloud from the computer screen. Users write by listening to the screen reader and using keyboard input, dictation tools, and braille displays. These tools enable blind writers to produce high-quality written work and actively participate in the writing process.
3. Speech-to-text software: Speech-to-text software allows blind individuals to write using their own speech by talking to their devices. Popular applications such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and messaging apps have built-in speech-to-text functionality. Dedicated software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking enable blind users to easily write and communicate. Speech is converted to text, which can be edited and revised using screen readers.
4. Refreshable Braille displays: Refreshable Braille displays allow blind individuals to write in Braille on a computer. These displays feature Braille dots that can be raised and lowered, and they connect to a computer via USB or Bluetooth. Refreshable Braille displays provide a tactile interface for writing and are useful for taking notes or drafting documents on a computer.
5. Voice Recorder: Blind individuals can use various audio recorders to capture verbal notes and ideas. Popular devices include the Olympus WS-852, Sony ICD-PX470, Zoom H1n, and Philips Voice Tracer DVT2710. These devices are designed to be user-friendly and often come with features such as voice activation, built-in microphones, and rechargeable batteries.
6. Large print: For individuals with low vision, using a computer with a large monitor or adjusting font sizes can make it easier to read what is being written. For example, a visually impaired student might use a computer with a large monitor to write a paper for a class. They can adjust the computer’s display settings to increase the font size and/or zoom in on the screen to make it easier to read. They can then write and edit their paper using the large print display. Alternatively, they can print their work in large font to read and edit on paper.
In conclusion, assistive technologies like Braille displays, speech-to-text software, and audio recorders have made writing more accessible for individuals with visual impairments. These technologies open up new opportunities for education, employment, and personal expression. By raising awareness and sharing this information, we can promote accessibility and advocate for policies that ensure equal opportunities for everyone. Together, we can work towards a more accessible and equitable future.
Frequently ask questions
How do blind people learn to read?
A blind student with usable vision can read with large fonts and magnifiers. Brail can help a student with total vision loss in learning to read in elementary school. Later, screen readers can also be used for reading and writing.
Books are available in various formats such as paperback audio books, PDFs ETC. Blind people can read paper books just they need to scan the book and read the books with help of screen readers. Audio books are also one of those popular formats off reading within blind and visually impaired people. Books in PDF format can be read using read Adobe reader and screen reader application.
How do blind people read a phone?
Blind people can read and run mobile phone with the help of screen reader applications such as Talkback for Android and VoiceOver for Iphone.
How do blind people read text messages?
Blind people can access mobile phone and read text messages using inbuilt screen reader application.
How do blind people browse internet and read articles online?
Blind people can read article’s online with help of screen reader software or read aloud feature from Chrome as well as websites has play button on their articles to listen and read
How do blind people read email?
Blind people can read e-mail on mobile phone and laptop using screen readers that read out loud the emails.
How do blind people read Facebook, reddit and or Quora?
These websites are built keeping in mind W3C accessibility guidelines which allow screen reader to interact with these websites and read out loud for the details two blind and visually impaired person.