Apps for the visually impaired

Posted on 27 June 2013

Are you or a loved one blind or partially sighted? Mobile technology can help you, says blind adventurer and motivational speaker Hein Wagner. He tells us how tech helps him, and we provide you with a list of handy mobile apps…

Hein has been blind since birth – but that hasn’t kept him from enjoying all life has to offer. He’s driven a car (breaking the world blind land speed record twice!), cycled solo for 39km, completed the Absa Cape Epic, and competed in the Cape To Rio Yacht Race. In 2007 he set up the Vision Trust to help other visually impaired people.

An avowed tech-head, he uses the latest mobile technology to assist him in his day-to-day life. ‘Technology helps me to live a “normal” life,’ he says, emphasising the inverted commas. ‘For example, I use the touchpad and voice tech on my iPhone 4 to “read” emails and SMSes, update my Facebook and Twitter profiles, and read news sites. Technology has made the world more accessible to blind and partially sighted people. Yes, there are still a lot of gaps, but it’s a lot better today than it was 20 years ago.’

Inspired by Hein, we’ve hunted through the Google Play and iTunes stores, and compiled a short list of mobile device apps that have been developed especially to assist people with visual impairments. Most of them use the device’s camera and speaker to ‘see’ and ‘speak’ for you – and all of them will make your (or your visually impaired friend’s) life a whole lot easier.

Color ID uses your phone’s camera to identify and ‘speak’ colours. Free on Android

DOCUSCAN PLUS scans and reads PDFs and printed documents, and can convert them to Braille, MP3 or large print. Free on iTunes

LOOKTEL MONEY READER identifies and speaks several currencies and their denominations. R79,99 on iTunes

TALKBACK adds audible and vibration feedback to your phone. Free on Android

BRAILLEBACK works with the TalkBack app to read braille texts aloud. Free on Android.

VIZWIZ uses a team of sighted people to help blind users in various situations in real time. Take a picture, speak a question, and you’ll get a spoken answer from one of the helpers. Free on iTunes


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Published in Ophthalmology

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