Technology knocks down barriers for the blind

The advancement of technology in the past decade has been astonishing. Now, more than ever, technology can assist blind and visually impaired individuals.

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technology helps blind
Technology is doing wonders to assist blind and visually impaired individuals. Photo: Diego Cervo, Bigstock

Technology has advanced a great deal over the last few years. For the blind and vision impaired, these advances are changing the way they do things and giving them a better quality of life. Blind people are able to access more and more information, break down barriers and decrease isolation.

Ability to read texts

Scanners have been around for years, which enables a blind person to read text by scanning it into a computer and having their text to speech software, called a screen reader, read it to them.

But until the last few years, a lot of editing was often required to make the text readable and it was difficult to scan such materials as a blind person. Reading mail or textbooks could be a major issue and pages with pictures would not scan.

Now, there are apps for smart phone users, which converts a scanned image into text and is accurate enough that it requires little, if any editing.

With a special template designed to fit the iPhone so the camera is at the optimal distance to take a picture, it has changed the way a blind person can access printed materials.

Now they can scan books, read mail, and some magazines without the need for extensive editing by a sighted person. Some apps will even convert text from a photo.

A sighted person can text a photo of some information and the blind person can convert it to text and read it.

Ebooks

People love reading books on their kindle or phone. For a blind person, these books were inaccessible, but now have opened up the world of print. More and more publishers are creating books in electronic formats, making vast amounts of materials available.

No longer do blind people have to wait for materials to be transcribed into braille or put on audio. Students can gain access to many textbooks or study online materials.

Product identification

A blind person is now able to identify products like bar codes and QR codes. Apps are available which can be used to tell a blind person what a product is. It is not possible yet to name everything about the product such as product directions on food items.

A blind person can now get some meat from the freezer, or a can of food from the pantry and in most cases use their smart phone to find out what it is. And with the combination of other apps, they can gain information such as product directions.

Ability to describe photos

Recently, social networks now have the ability to describe pictures to a blind person. Now, instead of scrolling past pictures, they can enjoy them too.

Usually it will tell you the number of people in the photo, along with a little about the scene, such as if there is clouds or grass. Over time, it will become better and better and development is under way to have apps describe people as well as objects.

Remote help anywhere

A blind person can now receive support anywhere, anytime. There are services now where a blind person can access live support by calling a person remotely via an app. That person can video link with the blind person and help them.

Sometimes, a blind person just needs someone to tell them the location of an item, or if food has reached the used by date. With this support, the possibilities are endless.

With all the great technology around, people with a disability are able to live more independently and live a richer, fuller life.