Starting university is a leap into an independent and self-reliant way of life. For students who are blind or visually impaired, some forward-thinking is essential to ensure that you have the right tools to ease this transition. The good news is that modern technology and smartphones have helped to close the gap between disabled students and their peers, particularly in the form of apps. Here's our selection to get you started.
Several are free in their basic form, some cost a few pounds and one is a heavyweight option. And don't miss number 10 which is an app that lists accessible apps.
DON'T FORGET DSA: Any UK student in HE or FE with a visual impairment could be eligible for extra funding from Disabled Students Allowances, which may cover some of these costs and will also recommend other changes to make sure your education is accessible.
The American Foundation for the Blind launched the official iOS notetaker, AccessNote. It works in collaboration with VoiceOver to create a systematic, feature-rich note taking aid.
Dictate your message, adding punctuation verbally, and receive it on screen instantly. Your delivery options for this message include text, email, copy-and-paste, and social media websites.
The Evernote app stores voice notes, photographs and text providing users with a medium to share them between multiple devices. Photographs are scanned for text using VoiceOver support.
The Kindle app allows people to download books from Amazon.com. Supportive features for those with visual impairment include large print, computer generated speech and human narrators.
5. Audible (Free trial then monthly fee)
The Audible app is available on both iPhone and Android devices, providing easy access to a huge selection of audio books including academic titles.
6. Talking Scientific Calculator iOS (£3.99) and Android (free)
The talking calculator has a range of voices to choose from and allows you to record your own voice. It works with VoiceOver for the blind, or has a high contrast options for those with limited sight. Features include large colourful buttons and the option to use speech for answers, button names and formulas. Button names are read aloud as your finger moves over the screen. Double tapping a button enters the number onscreen.
Google Translate transforms words and phrases users say aloud into a specified foreign language. This function is particularly useful to visually impaired students.
This app is a financial commitment, but promises to be ‘fast, accurate and efficient’. It converts printed text into speech to enable access to both single and multiple page documents. It promises to work with ‘the touch of a single button’ and is facilitated by ‘a field of view report, automatic page detection, and tilt control.’
9. Alarmed: Reminders + Timers (iOS Free + paid for extras)
Fully accessible with VoiceOver, this app is an excellent tool for organisation. It includes a notes area with reminders, a repeating alarm feature, a snooze option and a multi-use timer. Advanced features for a small cost provide you with the ability to set interval timers for doing repetitive chores, which could be used to set revision breaks.
10. And finally... an app about accessible apps
The Braille Institute has launched an iOS app called ViA (Visually Impaired Apps), which identifies the Pad and iPhone compatible apps that are useful for those with impaired sight. It enables users to sift through the 500,000 plus apps in the App Store and highlights those that were built to provide functionality to people with limited or no vision