Adaptive technology, also called “assistive technology,” are electronic devices designed to enhance or take the place of vision and provide the same access to information as sighted individuals. These devices can include video magnifiers, software programs that magnify or read aloud text on a computer screen and digital imaging systems.
Second Sense sells some of these products in our Product Center and offers training on many of them in one-day workshops and through our tutors. Our Technology Tutors provide assistance over the phone as well as in-person.
Video magnifiers or closed circuit TVs (CCTV) are cameras with a display screen that digitally enlarges printed materials, photographs and other small items. Some video magnifiers have cameras that can project far away objects onto the viewing screen such as chalkboards. Some even have the capability of text to speech applications that provide audio output of photographed printed materials.
These devices come in hand-held, portable and desktop models and can range in price from $400 to $2,500.
Manufacturers of video magnification devices include:
Touch Screen Devices
Touch screen devices are becoming a major part of the adaptive technology world just as they are in the mainstream. The two main types of touch screen devices are Android and Apple iDevices. The low vision and blind community have gravitated mostly towards Apple iDevices such as iPads, iPods and iPhones. This may be in part because Apple offers the highest level of accessibility in touch screen devices including a built-in screen reader and screen magnifier, as well as features for other disabilities. Android devices also have accessibility features for people with vision loss, but the level of accessibility varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Digital Recorders/Media Players
Digital records come in a variety of sizes and complexity. The Wilson Digital Recorder is a very easy-to-use recorder that your group members can take along to the doctor to record their next appointment or the medication they need to order.
Media Players offer versatility in small package. The user can record messages, listen to digital books and access an ever-increasing variety of information.
The most popular device is the Victor Reader Stream, which offers seamless downloading of digital books, simple design for easy operation, access to the Internet and radio stations and great recording capacity.
Screen-Magnification for Computers
Screen-magnification programs increase the size of text and images displayed on the PC’s monitor. Once the program is loaded onto the computer, this specialized software will interact with both the PC’s operating system and any applications running. The user has the ability to change color schemes to create an environment that is easiest to see, can enlarge cursors and also include some speech functions. These programs range in price from free to $900.
Screen magnification programs include:
- ZoomText from AI Squared
- MAGic from Freedom Scientific
- Windows Magnifier included in the Windows 7 operating system
Screen-Reading for Computers
Screen-reading programs use a voice synthesizer to read aloud information displayed on the PC’s monitor. Once the program is installed, it will start talking each time the computer is booted up and will interact with the PC’s operating system as well as any running applications. Generally, these programs do not use a mouse to operate the computer as all actions are accomplished with keyboard commands. Prices for these software programs range in price from free to $1,000.
Screen-reading programs include:
- JAWS® for Windows from Freedom Scientific
- Window Eyes® for Office from GW Micro
- Nonvisual Desktop Access (NVDA), an open source screen reader
- System Access from Serotek
Digital Imaging Systems
Digital Imaging Systems (DIS) involves using a camera to capture an image of print material and turning any text in that image into electronic text and/or speech. This process is called optical character recognition or OCR. DIS has taken over this task from old scanning based systems because it is faster and more portable. This new technology has led to an extremely wide range of products available in the market. This capability has also been added to video magnifiers (CCTV) to give users the ability to have the magnified text read to them. Prices for digital imaging systems range from $99 to $1,500.
Digital Imaging System options include:
- Blaze EZ multiplayer by HIMS
- KNFB Reader app for Apple iDevices
- For the PC, OpenBook software is paired with a Pearl camera