How Blind People Access Technology

A few people new to the world of blindness have recently asked me if I can use technology, and if so how. So I thought I’d write a post about it, explaining the various pieces of software and hardware that I use.

How I use a computer:

I use a completely ordinary windows computer, however on it I have software that reads out what’s on the screen. These pieces of software are called screenreaders, and you have several to choose from. The one I use is called NVDA. It was developed by blind people, for blind people and is free to download. With this piece of software I can do everything from reading word documents, to browsing the web, to spending time I should be studying watching netflix!

In order to navigate I use the keyboard instead of the mouse, and I also touch type. |I have been touchtyping since around the age of five and it is an essential skill to have if you are blind. Without it my productivity in education would be incredibly low.

How I use a phone or tablet:

I have an iPhone. All apple products come with a built-in screenreader called Voiceover. This functions much like a screenreader on the computer, except instead of typing I use the touchscreen. Android phones and tablets have a similar screenreader called Talkback.

Many apps are accessible using voiceover. For example facebook, twitter, whatsapp, various games and educational apps. I use my phone in much the same way a sighted student of my age would, mostly for frantically checking my grades and sending ridiculous messages to my friends.

I can also connect something called a refreshable braille display to my computer or phone. An easy way to think of it is like a screen, but instead of outputting print you get braille. So I can read what’s on my phone or computer using braille. I tend not to use this if I’m just messaging people, however if I want to proofread an assignment it’s really nice to actually be able to see it in braille. Braille displays are also incredibly useful for people who are deafblind as they can still access this technology, even if they can’t hear to use a screenreader.

I hope this post is useful for people who understandably are confused or overwhelmed by the tech options out there, or even questionning if a blind person will be able to access this technology. There are also various pieces of assistive technology designed for blind users, however I decided to primarily focus on mainstream technology, with the exception of braille displays, as I believe that is what the majority of blind people will end up being exposed to.

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