Visual Impairment/ Blind Assistive Technologies:

Visual Impairment/ Blind Assistive Technologies

Choosing the right kind of assistive technology can transform the abilities of visually impaired people to perform everyday computing tasks like:

  • reading documents
  • producing letters and reports
  • sending and receiving emails
  • browsing the web
  • communicating through social media
  • working with spreadsheets and data entry

Becoming an experienced user of assistive technology can enable someone with partial or no vision to effectively undertake very advanced tasks.

ESF logo

Supported Software

Listed below are a number of technologies that will allow you take notes effectively within a lecture environment and reduce that hectic feeling of trying to keep up with your note taking:

Jaws Screenreader

Image of the JAWS box

JAWS been designed for blind computer users to facilitate access to the web, documents and day to day computer use. This software enables the blind person to use keyboard short cuts to read toolbars and document content. The end-user will need to invest time and practice to become accustomed to keystroke shortcuts / software.

Average retail price : €1050-€1200

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ZoomText – Screen Magnifier

Zoomtext toolbar image

ZoomText is a stand-alone piece of software designed for visually impaired people. It is available for the Microsoft Windows & MAC operating systems. The program allows you to see and hear everything on the computer screen as well as providing access to applications, documents, e-mail and the Internet. The software can help individuals with ‘early vision loss, computer vision syndrome, and visual impairments such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Average retail price : €550-€650

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ZoomEX – Scanner

Zoom-ex scanner

The Zoom-Ex is the seamless integration of an instant digital scanner and lightning-fast OCR. It allows you to convert any printed text into multiple accessible formats such as speech, large print, MP3 or txt files, within seconds. The Zoom-Ex is easy to use. The foldable stand holds a digital scanning camera that is always at the exact distance needed to create a clear image. Users who have low vision can touch and feel the L-shaped edges of the stand to know exactly where to place the document to be read. The Zoom-Ex can be purchased for use with a PC or Mac computer.

Average retail price : €2400-€2500

Opti verso from Ash Technology

Optiverso magnifer

Opti Verso is the ultimate portable video magnifier with distance viewing capability. The flexible camera flips up to look at presentations and flips back again for close up reading and writing

  • Aid with distance viewing
  • Capturing images
  • Split screen use
  • Reading books & newspapers
  • Looking at photos

Average retail price : €1500-€1750


Free Resources

NVDA Screen reading SoftwareNVDA logo

NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free and open source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system. It supports over 20 languages and can run on any computer entirely from a USB drive with no installation.

To download a copy of NVDA please use the following link –

Windows OS LENS – magnification toolWindows lens tools

Microsoft added a nifty magnifier tool to Windows 7 that enables you to zoom in—regardless of the application—on the fine details on the screen. For faster zooming, here are some keyboard shortcuts.

To quickly zoom in to any part of your screen, hit the Windows key and +. By default, the Magnifier will zoom in 100% increments, but you can change this in the tool settings. Hold down the Windows and  keys at the same time to zoom back out.

Other quick keyboard shortcuts, once you have the Magnifier tool up, include:

  • CTRL + ALT + L to bring up the lens display view
  • CTRL + ALT + D to dock the magnification area.
  • CTRL + ALT + F brings you back to the full screen mode.

Online Help & training

Click this link to learn more about Windows magnifier visit the Microsoft training page.

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MAC inbuilt – Zoom accessibility optionZoom screenshot on a mac

Zoom is a powerful built-in magnifier that lets you enlarge your screen up to 20 times, so you can better see what’s on the display. You can use it full screen or picture-in-picture, allowing you to see the zoomed area in a separate window while keeping the rest of the screen at its native size. If a higher contrast or a lack of colour helps you better see what’s on your display, OS X lets you invert colours or enable greyscale onscreen. Once you set your preferences, they apply system wide

Enable Zoom in OS X

  1. Select Apple menu > System Preferences, click to open the Accessibility panel, and then click Zoom in the panel on the left.
  2. Enable either of the following options:
  3. To zoom with keyboard shortcuts, select “Use keyboard shortcuts to zoom.”
  4. To the use the Zoom functionality keyboard shortcuts, press Command -Option -Equal Sign (=) to zoom in and Command -Option -Minus Sign (-) to zoom out

Alternatively, you also can turn on zooming quickly by pressing Command-Option–F5. This opens an accessibility panel that allows you to enable or disable the Zoom options.


Online Help & training

Click this link to learn more about Zoom magnifier on a MAC visit the Apple training page.

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MAC inbuilt – Voice-over screen reader accessibility optionZoom screenshot on a mac

Voice-over is a screen reader program that comes on new Mac computers. This article is designed to help users who are new to Voice-over learn the basic controls for testing web content, and to serve as a reference for the occasional Voice-over user.

Enable Voice-over in OS X

You can start (or stop) Voice-over by pressing Command + F5. If you are on a laptop, you will likely need to additionally press the fn (function) key to activate F5.

While working in Voice-over, keep the following in mind:

  • Remember that screen reader users typically do not use a mouse. As you become more comfortable with Voice-over, try using only the keyboard.
  • Most browser shortcut keys will work when using Voice-over


Online Help & training

Click this link to learn more about Voice-over on a MAC visit the Apple training page.

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Apps for your smartphone or tablet

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MAC IOS – Iphone/Ipad Voice-over

Voice-over logo

Voice-over on handheld and mobile devices functions much like the desktop version of Voice-over, except everything is controlled via the touch-screen interface. With Voice-over enabled in the Settings, interface content can be read aloud and navigated. Touch an item or swipe left and right to select an item. Double tapping (or selecting and holding with one finger and then tapping with another finger) will activate a screen item (note that once selected, you can double tap anywhere else on the screen to activate the selected item).

The following core functions are available:

  • Read the entire page: Swipe two fingers upward
  • Stop reading: Tap with two fingers
  • Read through page elements: Swipe left or right
  • Open or modify the rotor: Twist two fingers on the screen
    • Select from multiple rotor element types by twisting
    • Once selected, swipe up or down to cycle through the available elements
  • Read from current location: Swipe downward with two fingers
  • Select an element: Tap an item, drag finger to an item, or navigate to an item using another navigation gesture
  • Activate an item: Double tap
  • Zoom: Triple tap

Click this link for more information & to download – online support

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MAC IOS – Zoom – Ipad/Iphone

Voice-over logo

Zoom is a screen magnification app built into the operating system of all Apple Mac OS X and iOS products designed to help make computers more accessible to persons who are visually impaired.

  • From your iPhone or iPad home screen, tap Settings, General, Accessibility, Zoom, then switch Zoom to “On.” You can also get quick access to the Zoom feature through the Home key.
  • Now double-tap the screen with three fingers at once, and well … zoom!
  • Want to pan around your zoomed-in iPhone/iPad display? Just swipe around as you normally would, except using three fingertips at once rather than just one.
  • You can also adjust the magnification level by double-tapping and holding with three fingers (it’s a “tap” and a “hold,” not a double-tap and then a hold), then dragging your fingertips up (to increase the zoom level) or down (to decrease the magnification).
  • Had enough? Double-tap the screen with three fingers again to make it jump back to the normal view.

Click this link for more information & to download – online support

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Android mobile – Talkback screenreader

talkback logo

Screen reader (TalkBack): TalkBack is a screen reader that’s included on your Android device. TalkBack uses spoken feedback to describe your actions and to tell you about alerts and notifications.

To enable TalkBack, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to Settings > Accessibility.
  2. Follow the steps for your version of Android:
    • Android 3.2 and earlier: Enable the Accessibility checkbox, then enable the TalkBack checkbox.
    • Android 4.0: Select TalkBack and slide the TalkBack switch to the on position. Next, go back to the previous screen and enable Explore by touch.
    • Android 4.1 and above: Select TalkBack and slide the TalkBack switch to the on position.
  3. The confirmation screen displays a list of permissions that allow TalkBack to provide useful spoken feedback:
    • Observe your actions: Receive notifications when you’re interacting with an app.
    • Retrieve window content: Inspect the content of a window you’re interacting with.
    • Turn on Explore by Touch: Touched items will be spoken aloud and the screen can be explored using gestures.
    • Turn on enhanced web accessibility: Scripts may be installed to make app content more accessible.
    • Observe text you type: Includes personal data such as credit card numbers and passwords.
  4. To confirm that you allow these actions and to begin using TalkBack, touch OK.

Talkback gestures:

  • Move to first item on screen = Up then down
  • Move to last item on screen = Down then up
  • Open local context menu = Up then right
  • Open global context menu = Down then right
  • Home button = Up then left
  • Back button = Down then left
  • Recent apps = Left then up
  • Scroll to next screen = Two-finger swipe left or up
  • (li>Scroll to previous screen = Two-finger swipe right or down

Click this link for more information & to download – online support

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Android mobile – Magnification

Magnification android logo

Magnification :Magnification gestures is an Accessibility Service for Android which allows visually impaired users to zoom in and pan the whole screen to get a closer look at screen content.  Users can triple-tap the screen to enter full-screen magnification and still interact with their device while zoomed in.

To enable or disable magnification gestures, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Magnification gestures.
  2. Set the switch to the on or off position.

When magnification gestures are enabled, you can magnify, pan, and zoom in the following ways:

  • Zoom in or out by triple-tapping the screen. Then, while zoomed in, you can:
    • Drag two or more fingers to pan across the screen.
    • Pinch two or more fingers together or spread them apart to adjust the zoom level.
    • Note: If you enter or exit an app when zoomed in, you automatically zoom out. Simply triple-tap to zoom in again.
  • Temporarily magnify what’s under your finger by triple-tapping and holding. In this magnified state, you can:
    • Drag your finger to explore different parts of the screen.
    • Lift your finger to return to your previous state.
    • Note: Triple-tap for magnification works everywhere except the keyboard and navigation bar.

Click this link for more information & to download – online support

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VO Starter

VO starter logo

VO Starter is the first app to offer blind and visually impaired iOS users training on the built in screen reader, VoiceOver

VO starter is completely free to download and use – VO Starter



dropvox logo

Start recording. Double-tap to pause or single-tap to stop. Uploads to Dropbox automatically. It’s that simple.

DropVox is 2 euro to download and use – DropVox



Blindsquare logo

BlindSquare is the World’s Most Popular accessible GPS-app developed for the blind and visually impaired. It describes the environment, announces points of interest and street intersections as you travel.

BlindSquare is 20euro to download and use – BlindSquare



KNFB logo

KNFB Reader an excellent choice for capturing and reading documents on the go wherever you are. Designed specifically for students with visual impairment the app allows the reading of virtually any type of printed text, including mail, receipts, class handouts, memos and many other documents.

This is a paid for app, if you wish to discuss it use please contact Andrew Costello the Disability officer – Assistive Technology officer. For more info please visit the KNFB website at – or on Itunes


NCBI Bookshare Library

KNFB logo

As of December 2017, the NCBI Library has access to over 600,000 titles in alternative formats. The NCBI Library has joined Bookshare and The ABC Consortium, both international organisations and consortiums paving the way for access to international academic and leisure reading titles.

Bookshare based in the USA, offers the world’s largest collection of accessible titles. Books can be listened to in high quality text to speech. A physical Braille, or large print copy can be produced from a digital file, and texts can be read directly from an internet browser. All titles can be read on a suite of different devices including computers, tablets, smartphones and assistive technology devices. All Books that are available to the NCBI Library through Bookshare are copyright cleared and the Library would have access to approximately 340,000 accessible digital titles immediately. Bookshare in the USA is used mainly by students with sight loss and Libraries to access educational reading material.

To access the bookshare site


  • The NCBI Library needs the student to sign up to the NCBI library by requesting a application form. The application form will register the vision impaired or dyslexic student with the NCBI Bookshare Library service. A signature from the Disability Office, Librarian or medical person is needed on this form to state that this person cannot read print. Once the form is received by the NCBI Library, a log in and password is issued to the student. The NCI contact is located at –


The student can send their reading list by email to my address. We will search Bookshare and place the book(s) in the students “Reading List” in Bookshare. When the student Logs into their account, their reading list books should be available in the format of their choice ( BRF, pdf, DAISY, MP3, Word, etc…) to download.

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