At Deafblind UK we know that technology can make life easier when you have sight or hearing problems, but knowing where to start isn’t always easy.
The internet is changing the way we all live our lives. From how we shop, communicate with people and find out what is happening around the world and in our community, to how we read books, listen to music and book our favourite restaurant.
Every day technology is advancing and will continue to influence how we work and live on a daily basis. It enables people to live independently, feel connected to the world and live rich, fulfilling lives.
We do not think that a combined sight and hearing loss is a barrier to accessing, using and enjoying all the benefits that being online can bring. With the devices available on the market today, anyone with any degree of sensory impairment can use them.
Our digital support service teaches you to make the most of your tablet or mobile phone to enable you to live as independently as possible.
▪ Connect with friends and family
▪ Do online shopping and banking
▪ Discover specialist apps
Deafblind UK offers support across the UK to help show someone how to properly use their equipment. This can be done in a variety of ways, from digital groups and digital showcases to more targeted 1:1 support from trained digital befrienders and digital outreach officers.
Here are a few Q and A’s to get you started….
What is a Tablet?
Since the launch of the first iPad in 2010, tablet computing has become immensely popular. Smaller in size to a laptop but bigger than a smartphone for many they have become a perfect choice for performing common everyday activities such as watching films, sharing photos and browsing the internet.
Portable, thin and lightweight with screen sizes typically ranging between 5 inches to 13 inches there are many devices to choose from.
Touchscreen gestures on the display screen are commonly used to operate the tablets and on screen virtual keyboards enable typing. Options for attaching a physical keyboard typically via Bluetooth or a braille keyboard can be good alternatives for VI users who find tactile input easier.
Tablets can also differ in a number of other ways including the operating systems they run, the storage they have available, and their battery life and camera specifications.
Additional to Wi-Fi for internet connection, options exist for 3G and 4G mobile connectivity.
All offer built in accessibility support such as screen readers and magnification in some shape or form.
- iPads are tablets manufactured by Apple and run the iOS operating system.
- They use their proprietorial App store for access to a wide range of apps that they have available
Android based Tablets
- These are tablets that run the Google based Android operating system – the latest of which is codenamed Oreo.
- The Google Play Store is Android’s official app store that can be used to access a wide range of apps that they have available.
Windows based Tablets
- These are tablets that run the Windows based operating system – the latest of which is Windows 10.
- Their proprietorial Microsoft Store can be used to access a wide range of apps that they have available.
What is an online device?
An online device is any electronic device that can connect to the internet.
What is the Internet?
The internet is a group of computers that are connected across the world and contain a huge amount of information of all different types. The internet can offer online libraries, radio broadcasts, music, news, shopping, video, and much more.
By connecting to the internet, or by “being online”, you can then quickly access the information with your chosen online device.
What is an Internet Service Provider?
This is the company which supplies your internet connection. This can either be through a mobile signal or a box called a router or hub which you can set up in your home. You typically connect to the home router using Wi-Fi (Wireless Technology). When using Wi-Fi no wire or cable is required between the connecting device and the router. Radio waves are used to transmit the data.
What is a Mobile connection?
This uses the mobile telephony network to connect to the internet. As such you do not need to rely on locating Wi-Fi hotspots in each area that you visit. Hand held devices such as smartphones and tablets can use this technology. You may have come across the terms 3G or 4G – this just refers to the progressive 3rd and 4th Generation cycles of this mobile network technology. You pay separately for the 3G and 4G services that you use through dedicated data plans.
What is the World Wide Web?
This refers to the information contained on the internet and to the different places on the internet where you can access this information – commonly known as websites.
You can visit a chosen website by typing in their web address to a web-browser. For example – www.deafblind.org.uk
What is a Browser or Web-browser?
The web-browser is a program which can be used to search for and view information on the internet. There are many different types and brands of browser, but they all work in similar ways. You can use browsers on hand held devices such as smartphones and tablets as well as on laptops and computers. The browser is often configured to start with a chosen site. This is referred to as your home page, and may be somewhere you visit most frequently. For example, many people start with the Google search engine.
Apple devices such as the iPad and the iPhone are products that run on the Apple iOS mobile operating system.
Apple has created a rich set of built in accessibility features that work across their product range. This allows them to be adapted to make them accessible for anyone with a disability.
Features like Zoom and VoiceOver for example offer magnification and screen reader capabilities which can be configured by low vision and blind people allowing them to use the devices more independently.
To find out more about the Apple’s screen reader VoiceOver feature click on the following link.
To find out how to get started using Apple’s VoiceOver feature click on the following link.
To find out more about how to get started using Apple’s built in magnification tools click on the following link
Use these links for an overview of some of the other built in accessibility settings across vision and hearing
The android operating system is a platform developed by Google and can typically be found on many touchscreen smartphone and tablet devices. It is used across several manufacturer mobile devices including Samsung, HTC, Huawei and LG.
Android offers a range of accessibility features built into the operating system that allows the mobile devices that run on the platform many options for ensuring they can be adapted to meet the accessible needs of their users.
For example, turning on the TalkBack feature enables screen reading capabilities for your device. It describes for low vision and blind users what currently is being touched on the screen.
For low vision users who can still see some parts of the screen but require larger text and icon sizes – the easy to use display magnification gestures can be used.
If you are a low vision android user and you want to find out a little more about how you can get started using Android Magnification features, click on the following link.
To find out more about using the native TalkBack tool, click on the following link
Use these links for an overview of some of the other built in accessibility settings across vision and hearing
Computers, laptops and tablets running Windows 10, 8 and 7 offer a comprehensive suite of built in accessibility options that are absolutely free.
The Ease of Access centre is the centralised portal where many of these features can be accessed and configured making the computer easier to use for vision impaired and for those with hearing, motor and cognitive impairments.
For example, Narrator is Windows’ native screen reader which can be accessed to describe on screen text and icons and assist with using apps and web browsing for those who are blind or have low vision.
Click on this Narrator link to get started using Narrator on Windows 10.
Magnifier is Windows native magnifier tool and can assist low vision users to more easily read text on the screen. Click on this Magnifier link to get stated using Magnifier on Windows 10.
Click on this Vision link to explore a few more ways you can get started with adapting your Windows 10 device to suit your levels of vision loss.
Apps look like square icons on your device screen. They are small pieces of software that allow you to perform some type of digital activity such as listening to your favourite music or viewing your family photos.
To get you started, when you buy your smartphone, tablet or laptop device, some apps are already preinstalled. You can add more at any time if you wish.
For instance, if you often visit the BBC News website at www.bbc.co.uk/news you may find it easier to perform this digital activity through the corresponding BBC News app. Once the app is installed, you can simply tap on the app to catch up with the latest news instead of having to keep going back to the webpage.
Some apps are free to download and others require an initial purchase. Some apps offer in-app purchases which unlock paid for extra content or subscription services and are available after the app has been downloaded.
The App Store is the location where you go to search and download apps that run on Apple devices such as iPhones and iPads. This can be accessed through the App store app.
The Google Play Store is the location where you officially go to search and download apps that run on Android based devices.
The Microsoft Store is the location where you go to search for and download apps that run on Windows 8 and Windows 10 platforms.
Click on this link to view some specialist apps that some of our members have tried and benefited from.
Text to Speech apps
KNFB reader is a popular text to speech app that uses the latest OCR scan and read technologies. It is used by many blind and low vision users as well as those with dyslexia and other print disabilities. It reads anything from menus, bills, documents, signs and email to PDF documents.
This app is available for purchase from the App Store, Google Play Store and the Windows 10 store.
Find out more about KNFB reader
Prizmo Go lets you quickly grab printed text with the camera. After text is recognized you can interact with it in many useful ways or just send it to other apps. Thanks to its support for VoiceOver, Prizmo Go is very well suited to low vision and blind users.
The app is available for download from the App store. The free version offers built in OCR text recognition.
Options for monthly and yearly subscriptions exist through the Premium Plan as an ‘in app’ purchase scheme offering additional features such as handwriting recognition and text translation.
Find out more about Prizmo Go
Seeing AI is an app that narrates the world around you. The app is designed for the blind and low vision community. This app uses the power of AI to open up the visual world and describe nearby people, text, and objects. It packages an array of features including:
- Short text – as soon as text comes into view of the devices camera it is read out loud.
- Document – Seeing AI tells you when your camera is ready to capture all edges of a document. Once visible a photo is taken automatically. The captured text can be read back to you.
- Product – products can be identified through their barcodes.
- Colour – This feature can be used as a colour identification tool.
- Light – The higher the pitch of the audible tone the brighter the surroundings.
Comprehensive help files are also available.
Seeing AI is a free app available for download from the App store.
Find out more about Seeing AI
Speech to text apps
This app offers real time speech to text translation.
Using it with your phones microphone in face to face conversations, it enables the hard of hearing to SEE what is being said. It is much easier than lips-reading. Simply place the microphone in front of you, click the mic – and let the app transcribe for you in real-time what you are saying.
The app works with any type of voice straight out of the box and the text translation automatically adds the correct punctuation to make the text easier to read. Additional features include options to save the transcripts as files and change font size and type.
The app is available for download on the Google Play Store and the App Store.
All Play Store downloads offer free, unlimited minutes.
The App Store downloads offer an initial free 30 second trial before 30 minutes paid for packages are required. The cost per minute will vary depending on the country
Find out more about TextHear
The app uses speech to text technology, via the Internet, in order to turn spoken words into text. The text is presented in the form of speech bubbles.
The app is free and available for download on the App store.
Find out more about Spuble
Object Recognition apps
Aipoly Vision uses artificial intelligence to identify objects and colours for vision and colour impaired users. It is easy to use. Point the smartphones camera at the object of choice and the apps speaking voice will tell you what it is. There are many objects that it is able to identify. The free version gives you access to a wide variety of general objects and colour identifications. The paid for monthly subscription service unlocks access to further features including text recognition across multiple languages and object recognition in the fields of foods, plants and flowers, animal species and currencies.
The free app is available for download in the App store.
Monthly subscriptions can be signed up to through ‘in app’ purchases.
Find out more about Aipoly Vision
TapTapSee is a mobile camera application designed specifically for the blind and visually impaired. The app utilizes the device’s camera and VoiceOver functions to photograph objects and identify them out loud for the user.
The app is free and available for download from the App store and the Google Play store.
Find out more about TapTapSee
Visor – Magnifier
Visor is a magnifier app that can work on both iOS and Android based smartphones. It provides up to 4 magnification levels and 4 different screen colour contrast modes. It also offers an LED flash light for reading to help the user see better in low-light conditions.
It can for suitable for low vision users when reading text on menu items or handheld objects or for object identification.
The app is available for download on the Google Play Store and the App store. A small purchase cost may be required.
Find out more about Visor
BlindSquare is a popular accessible GPS-app designed to give back travel independence to the blind and visually impaired. It works with free third party navigation apps. It can announce information about the surrounding environment, inform the user of points of interest and tell them about their current address. For example, it can update with information about the location of the nearest street intersection and nearby venues.
The app is available for download on the App store and costs £38.99. In-App purchases are also available.
Find out more about BlindSquare
This is a free version of the Blind Square paid for app. It offers limited functionality and allows users to access a demo mode which allows them to test out some of the paid for features in a simulated environment.
This free app is available for download on the App store.
Find out more about BlindSq Event
Light Detector apps
Boop Light Detector
Boop is an app that detects levels of light and interprets this information with a sound alert. It allows its blind and visually impaired users to detect whether lights are on or off.
Boop light Detector is a free app available for download from the App Store
Find out more about Boop Light Detector
Sound Alert App gives you the ability to record your environmental and home sounds and alert you to the events when they occur through phone vibrations and visual alerts. Devices to be alerted to include doorbells, telephone rings, microwave beeps, alarm clocks and theft alarms.
The app is free and available for download on the Google PlayStore and the App store
Find out more about Sound Alert
NGT Lite app is an app that can run on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You use the app with a phone call to make text calls through the NGT Service.
The NGT Lite works together with your home, office, or mobile phone and provides a text connection in parallel with the phone call you make through the Next Generation Text Service.
The app is free and available for download on the Google Play Store and the App store.
Find out more about NGT Lite
Welcome app by Neatebox
Welcome is a free app that aims to improve customer service for visitors with specific accessibility requirements.
The welcome app is able to make participating venues aware of scheduled visits and relays information about the visitor’s condition and how best the visited venue can support this interaction.
The app is free and available for download from the Google Play Store and App Store.
Find out more about the Welcome app
Amazon Echo Dot
Read about Deafblind UK member Ruth’s experience with her Amazon Echo Dot – a voice controlled audio speaker that answers by the name of Alexa! Click here for more