I have been registered blind for over 13 years now and within that time I’ve had to learn different strategies and techniques to read, write and carry out daily tasks. The greatest tool for me to achieve these things is using assistive technology.
In this three part series, I’m going to share with you the best assistive technology I use and how to get the most out of them.
Assistive technology and accessible gadgets are all a part of my daily life. It helps me read and write, enjoy entertainment, contact people, operate kitchen equipment and even run this blog.
Here are 10 accessible gadgets I use in my home and I would recommend to other people with sight loss –
1. iPhone & iPad
I only joined the Apple device family two years ago and it was the best decision I ever made. I upgraded my simple Doro phone to an iPhone 5s in 2016. Then with the help of the Apple manual (and a bit of Googling), I learnt all the accessibility features by myself. 18 months later, I decided I wanted to expand my Apple device family and asked Father Christmas (a.k.a. My parents) for an iPad. 11 months on, my iPad mini 4 has become my ultimate lifeline. As a result, it has made me neglect my Windows laptop. I’m amazed how much you can do on an iPad and I have even managed to create and run my entire blog on it.
There are several accessibility options available both in the general settings and also apps you can download. I will be discussing these accessibility features in Part 2 of Assistive Tech Tips.
2. Bluetooth Keyboard
This gadget is great for people with sight loss who may struggle to type on the touch screen of a smartphone or tablet or prefer to use a physical keyboard when writing long emails, documents, articles and blog posts. This is a wireless keyboard that can connect to your bluetooth IOS or MAC device. It has black letters on yellow background keys already provided, meaning there is no need for keyboard stickers. Plus the keys on this keyboard never fade which means you never have to purchase replacement keyboard stickers. This gadget is available to purchase on RNIB.
3. Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo, more commonly known as Alexa, is a virtual assistant that you can control with your voice and she will speak back. You can ask her an endless number of commands including “what time is it?”, “play my music”, “set an alarm”, “read my book” and “what’s in the news”. Also you can use Alexa to control Smart Home devices such as lights and sockets.
In addition, there are hundreds of game skills to entertain you and your family. Check out my 5 recommended game skills on Amazon Alexa here.
4. Desk Lamp & Daylight Bulbs
Due to my vision, I cannot see anything in the dark, find it difficult to use my keyboard in natural light and struggle to use normal light bulbs. Therefore I use a specialist daylight desk lamp plus daylight bulbs in my house. The light is bright white colour rather than the traditional orange glow. Both the desk lamp and bulbs and other lighting products can be found on RNIB.
5. Talking Telephone
Although 90% of the time I make and receive most of my phone calls on my iPhone, it is always handy to have a landline phone at home too. I use a Doro PhoneEasy 110 which is a cordless phone with large numbers and it speaks the numbers when you dial. It does have a phonebook where you can store numbers but unfortunately it does not read this out aloud. I originally purchased it from RNIB but it is no longer sold there. However you can still purchase it from the Doro website.
6. Bump dots
This item is not actually a gadget but it does support me accessing and operating technology. These are tactile stickers that come in different colours and shapes and help indicate buttons, switches and dials. They can be stuck to washing machines, ovens, computer keyboards, radios and speakers. I even have one stuck on my home button on my iPad!
They are available to purchase from RNIB.
7. Liquid Level Indicator
This pocket sized gadget is a great tool to support people with sight loss pour drinks. You simply clip the device to a cup or mug, start pouring the liquid until you hear a beep. Then if you want to add a bit extra (eg milk in tea or coffee), you can pour again until a second faster beeping sound, indicating the cup is full. This can be purchased on RNIB.
8. Talking microwave
I’m sure the name of this gadget can speak for itself. Yes it is basically a microwave that talks. When you use it, it can tell you “door open” & “door closed” when operating the door. Then every button you press will speak allowed too. This includes the minutes & seconds, cooking time remaining, power strengths, defrosting food and stop, pause, continue & cancel. There are different makes and models which can be found at RNIB.
Although I did say at the beginning of this list of 10 accessible gadgets that I have neglected my Windows laptop, I do still occasionally use it to scan documents and work on my Adobe Creative Suite software. Plus this tool has been a lifeline throughout my education.
Zoomtext is a computer programme that has maagnification, screen reader and curser features that support people with sight loss navigate their desktop or laptop. I was lucky enough to get it provided for me through my school and university but it is available to purchase online.
10. Smart TV