Equipment for the Visually Impaired

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Approximately 5.1 percent of persons nationally age 18 to 44 say they have trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, according to Lighthouse International, an organization for the visually impaired. Equipment for the visually impaired can help college students with visual impairments succeed in school. These same tools are useful for people with visual impairments who are not in school.

1 Voice Recognition Software

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a computer voice recognition program. You speak into a headset microphone and the program types what you speak on the computer. You can also navigate through your computer and the internet using voice commands. Dragon Naturally Speaking will read websites and documents to users. This is especially useful when doing research or writing and editing essays. If you use Dragon NS you can often type faster than those using a physical keyboard. Dragon NS has versions for PC and Mac. There are specialized version for medical and legal studies. Students with learning disabilities and ADHD also find this software helpful, according to Nuance.

2 Low-Tech Color and Texture Coding

Low-tech equipment such as colored sticky notes can help students with visual impairments stay organized.

Lowtech solutions such as color coding with sticky bookmark notes and colored notebooks can be very helpful for busy students. Textured stickers such as fuzzy or puffy ones, are effective equipment for color and texture coding. College science students with several standard issue lab notebooks of the same color run the risk of picking up the wrong notebook for a class. By taping a different color paper over each lab notebook, students can avoid this frustrating mistake. You can pick one color for each course -- such as orange for zoology and pink for physics -- and cover your textbooks and other supplies in that color. Students without disabilities can also find these organization techniques useful.

3 Voice Enabled Handheld GPS

Voice enabled, hand-held GPS units can help students with visual impairments find their lecture halls, classes and labs.

Often college and university students with visual impairments find navigating around campus and a new city challenging. A voice enabled handheld GPS can help students with -- and without -- visual impairments find their classes, labs and other locations on and off campus. If your visual impairment affects your depth perception, a voice enabled handheld GPS can tell you how far away in both walking minutes and physical distance you are from intersections and other important places. PC World reported that as of 2007 some voice activated handheld GPSs had 20 GB hard drives and home computer connections. This lets you plan routes before you have to be somewhere and then store them. Many units are also Bluetooth enabled, allowing you to connect to your smart phone.

4 iPad

The iPad is a useful reading tool for students with visual impairments who can see large print and prefer to read text. It can store many textbooks, PDF documents and other notes. You can quickly enlarge the image on the screen by a finger gesture. Students may wish to research apps -- known as applications which are mini software programs -- to find the PDF reader app they prefer.

5 Non-Students With Visual Impairments

The equipment listed above can also help people with visual impairments that are not students. iPads can help business people and other professionals organize and enlarge the text and graphics in their documents. Voice enabled handheld GPSs can help people find the location of client offices or coffee shops they are having meetings at. Color coding is a useful organizational tool for most people with visual impairments and anyone who is busy or has challenges with organization. Dragon Naturally Speaking is used by business professionals, writers, lawyers and health professionals with and without visual impairments to type faster.

Elizabeth McCready has been a freelance writer since 2007. She has written business, tourism and IT documents. She also compiled the literature review for an Ontario-wide health study and worked in the outdoor and adventure tourism industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social anthropology, with a geography minor, from the University of Calgary and a Bachelor of Science in sciences from Lakehead University.