Phone Apps and Resources for People with Vision Loss
Do you wear contacts or glasses, or are you in denial about needing them? At least 10 percent of all adult Americans reported they either have trouble seeing – even when wearing glasses or contacts – or that they are blind or unable to see at all, the 2015 National Health Interview Survey found.
Vision impairments are more common as we age, which in turn impacts our overall health and wellbeing. As the American Foundation for the Blind says, this includes:
- Increased risk of falls and fractures, making it more likely that the person will be admitted to a hospital or nursing home, become disabled, or die prematurely
- Increased risk of depression
- Difficulty identifying medications, which can lead to drug-related errors
- Difficulty bathing, dressing, and walking around the house
Thanks to technology, living with vision loss is much more manageable. Read on for recommended apps and resources.
AccessNote – The official iOS notetaker from the American Foundation for the Blind. It’s touted as a low-cost alternative to traditional note takers and boasts powerful search features and keystroke efficiency among its features.
ActiView – This app helps make movies accessible by providing real-time amplified audio and audio description.
Ariadne GPS – Even though it’s common for maps to use GPS, this voice-controlled one has useful features like the ability to know your position at any time and monitor it while walking. You can save your favorite points and be alerted when reaching them. You can also explore the map through VoiceOver.
Autour – An eyes-free mobile system that’s designed to give users a better sense of surroundings with ambient and spatialized audio, as the app’s description states.
BARD Mobile – A service of the National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped, (NLS) and Library of Congress that provides access to Braille and talking books. There are about 80,000 books, magazines, and music scores in audio and Braille formats, with new selections added each day. Before using this app, you have to qualify and be registered for this service.
Be My Eyes – This app is cool; it connects people who are blind or visually impaired with sighted helpers from around the world. There are over half a million users in 150 countries that use this app.
Capti – A text to speech app for websites that allows users to skip ads, links, and other clutter. You can even save text for later.
KNFB Reader – Converts printed text into speech instantly and accurately with access to single and multi page documents.
LookTel: Scans and recognizes objects. There are two offshoots: LookTel Recognizer, which identifies everyday objects, and LookTel Money Reader, which identifies currency; no Internet connection needed.
Magnificent – Turns your smartphone into a talking portable electronic video magnifier. There are several low vision filter modes, increased magnification up to 16x, and all you have to do is point your camera to any object to enlarge.
Speak It! Text to Speech – This app will help you multitask as it reads text while you exit the app and do other things with your device.
Talking Scientific Calculator – This calculator has large colorful buttons, optional high contrast, and full VoiceOver support. It also has options to use speech for answers.
TapTapSee – This is a mobile camera application designed specifically for people who are blind and visually impaired. The app uses your device’s camera and VoiceOver functions to photograph objects and identify them out loud.
American Foundation for the Blind – National non-profit with comprehensive information and a database of nationwide services.
Assistive technology products – The American Foundation for the Blind has a database for assistive technology products that you can browse by category, manufacturer, task, and small visual display.
National Federation of the Blind – National consumer organization. If you join, you can access local and nationwide networks. You’ll also receive some free tools like a white cane.
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) – If you’re a parent of a child who is blind, this is an offshoot of the National Federation of the Blind. Here you’ll find a community of support.
National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) – This is another organization for parents of children with visual impairments; this one is through the Lighthouse Guild. There’s a national tele-support network, which will connect you with parents of children with the same eye condition as your child.
Lighthouse International – Another resource for services and guidance that calls itself the leading not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization. They also address the needs of those with multiple disabilities or chronic medical conditions.
VisionAware – Helps adults who are losing their sight continue to live full and independent lives by providing timely information, step-by-step daily living techniques, a directory of national and local services, and a supportive online community.
American Academy of Ophthalmology – Use this link to locate a low vision specialist /ophthalmologist near you.