Vision

Vision

Key Takeaways

What is Assistive Technology for Vision?

  • Vision AT is technology that helps people see better, or better comprehend what they cannot see.
  • Vision AT includes tools that help individuals maximize the use of any remaining vision and access their environment using other senses, such as hearing and touch.
  • Optical and electronic magnifiers and other tools enhance visual perception.
  • Screen readers, talking calculators, and other tools provide auditory feedback and are useful for individuals who are blind or have low vision.
  • Electronic braille devices, navigation aids, and other tools provide tactile feedback and allow a person to comprehend information through their sense of touch or proprioception.
  • A person may use multiple tools depending on the setting and tasks.

Common No-Tech and Low-Tech Vision AT Solutions:

  • Adjust lighting
  • Adjust seating in relation to windows or other light sources
  • Adjust text and background colors in electronic materials
  • Braille materials
  • Bold-lined paper and rigid writing guides
  • Change font size
  • Colored overlays
  • Increase contrast in printed materials
  • Large print materials
  • Optical magnifiers
  • Reduce visual clutter
  • Tactile graphics
  • Tactile identifiers such as braille labels, plastic dots, and textured stickers
  • Text-to-speech

Who Needs Vision AT?

  • Individuals of any age who are blind or have visual impairments which cannot be fully corrected with glasses or surgical interventions
  • Those with brain-based disorders, such as cortical visual impairment (CVI) or traumatic brain injury (TBI), which cause differences in visual perception
  • Those with temporary conditions which affect visual perception
  • Anyone who may lose vision in the future due to a degenerative eye condition

Situations for Vision AT:

School Environment

  • Accessing textbooks and other reading materials
  • Navigating to and from school and extracurricular activities
  • Navigating within classrooms, the cafeteria, and outdoor areas
  • Seeing during assemblies, group activities, and sports events
  • Using balls and other sports equipment
  • Viewing teacher lectures/whiteboard

Socialization

  • Communicating by phone, text, and social media
  • Viewing sheet music
  • Using balls and other sports equipment

Work Environment

  • Identifying and using items in the workplace
  • Using a computer for reading and editing documents, entering data, or other work tasks
  • Navigating to and from work, and within the workplace

 Home Environment

  • Cleaning and other chores
  • Cooking/meal preparation
  • Using a computer for entertainment, paying bills, and reading
  • Choosing clothes to wear
  • Navigating inside the home

Community

  • Seeing/Experiencing concerts, movies, sporting events, religious events, and theatrical performances
  • Reading menus when dining out
  • Researching at the library
  • Shopping
  • Navigating public transportation

Commonly Asked Questions for Vision AT:

  • Q – If a student or job seeker is blind, does that mean you will have to provide all reading materials in braille?
    • A – Not necessarily. First, you’ll want to ask the individual what format they prefer. If electronic documents are properly formatted, the student or employee will be able to access them on a computer using text-to-speech, or an electronic braille display.
  • Q – If a job seeker has low vision, will the company need to enlarge materials and provide brighter lighting?
    • A – It depends. Bigger and brighter are not always better. Sometimes magnification doesn’t help. For instance, if a person has good acuity, but a narrow field of vision, enlarging materials will only make reading more difficult. Likewise, with lighting. Due to various eye conditions, some individuals will need brighter lighting, while others will need to avoid bright lights and glare. Sometimes a person will benefit from natural light, while another will need to be seated away from windows. Consult with a Teacher of the Visually Impaired or Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist for help determining the best strategies for optimizing remaining vision.
  •  Q – Will an individual need the most expensive, and most high-tech device?
    • A – High-tech is not always better than low-tech. This depends on the condition, as well as the degree of vision loss, and the situation in which the tool may be needed. You may wonder if there is one tool that will meet all of a person’s needs. This is usually not the case for those who are blind or have visual impairments. Multiple tools may be needed. For instance, a student or employee may have a large desktop magnifier at a desk, and a handheld magnifier to carry around. A person who reads braille may need a large braille display to connect to his or her desktop computer, and a smaller portable device to use in other places. Consult with a Teacher of the Visually Impaired or Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist for help determining which tools to try.
  • Q – How can I determine what materials and tools are appropriate for an individual with visual impairments?
    • A – Consult with a professional! Providers such as Low Vision Optometrists, Occupational Therapists, Teachers of the Visually Impaired, and Orientation and Mobility Specialists can help determine what accommodations and AT to consider depending on an individual’s unique needs. Trialing devices of various makes and models will help you determine what works and avoid costly purchases that end up not being beneficial.
  • Q – In addition to an AT Assessment, what special types of assessments can help educators determine the needs of students with visual impairments?
    • A – A functional vision assessment (FVA) and a learning media assessment (LMA) will guide educators in determining what formats of educational materials and which tools are appropriate for the individual’s unique needs. 

 AT Solutions at ABLE Tech:

 View ABLE Tech’s Vision AT Inventory

Visit ABLE Tech's Vision AT/DME Reuse/Exchange Inventory

Helpful Links and PDF Resources:

Video/Webinar/Podcast Resources:

Education

Case Studies of Individuals with Vision AT Needs and Recommendations 

Case Study #1

3-year-old Pre-K student, low vision, delayed fine motor skills

This 3-year-old Pre-K student has low vision and delayed fine motor skills recently and transitioned into public school from the SoonerStart Early Intervention Program. The school is looking for tools to help the student participate in the early childhood special education classroom to see and manipulate objects and printed materials. She is quite unsteady walking, and teachers are not sure how much of her environment she can see. They are searching for tools to capture her interest and prompt her to use her vision.

Possible Recommendations:

As this student is unable to see, hold, and manipulate objects easily, a possible solution is a page magnifier which has legs and a light for illuminating from above or LightBox which has a surface for placing objects which are illuminated from below. The LightBox is sturdy, yet portable. An iPad with early childhood apps could also be considered; however, the student would have to hold the device steady or use a tablet stand.

Goals and Outcomes:

The student will show increased participation in the early childhood special education classroom. A possible goal for tracking outcomes would be to increase the number of times the child visually attends to objects placed on the Lightbox surface, as well as the number of times the student initiates use of the tool.

See the attached SETT Framework form for feature-matching solutions based on the Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools model.

Case Study Forms – SETT Framework
Sample Solutions:

Case Study #2

Middle school student, visual impairment, unable to read standard text

This middle school student has a visual impairment. He was able to keep up with reading assignments in elementary school with the use of a page magnifier and support of a paraprofessional who often read books aloud. However, with his transition and the increasing demands of middle school, a solution is needed to help him become more independent with reading tasks. He needs a tool, or tools, to allow him to read printed or digital materials in the classroom, school library, and at home.

Possible Recommendations:

Providing digital text from Bookshare is one option that will allow the student to read books on an iPad with the Voice Dream Reader app. The student will be able to read visually until his eyes fatigue, and then he can switch to auditory learning, and listen to the text read aloud with synthesized speech. The student will also be able to use the app to read worksheets and other documents that his teachers provide electronically. As the student often needs to see what teachers write on the whiteboard, he will also benefit from using the MATT Connect (Smart Tablet Magnifier). The MATT Connect can be folded and placed in a rolling cart for transport between classes. Another consideration is the OmniReader and the CCTV Merlin HD 17” Desktop Electronic Magnifier, but those do not provide all of the features of the iPad with app or the MATT Connect.

Goals and Outcomes:

The student will use AT to access/learn math concepts demonstrated by the teacher on the whiteboard and respond with increasing accuracy when answering math problems.

See the attached SETT Framework form for feature-matching solutions based on the Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools model.

Case Study Forms – SETT Framework

Sample Solutions:

Case Study #3

High school sophomore, blind, learning braille

This 15-year-old high school sophomore is close to transitioning from high school to higher education, so the Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) wants to help her learn to read and write in braille. The student needs a tool to help her learn braille that can also be used through college. It is important for her to be able not only to write in braille, but also read electronically, and create and save documents.

Possible Recommendations:

The TVI considered a range of low-tech to high-tech solutions, including a braille slate and stylus, a Smart Brailler, an electronic braille display, and an electronic braille notetaker. Portability was considered important because this student needs to carry the device to and from school and between classes. A tool that meets all of these needs is the BrailleNote Apex Notetaker. The Apex is a computer in itself, which allows the student to read and write in braille, create and save documents, and even conduct research wirelessly.

Goals and Outcomes:

Using the electronic braille notetaker, the student will learn to write braille contractions from dictation.

See the attached SETT Framework form for feature-matching solutions based on the Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools model.

Case Study Forms – SETT Framework

Sample Solutions:

Employment

Case Studies of Individuals with Vision Needs and Recommendations 

Case Study #1

Job seeker who is visually impaired, needs a screen reader and listening solution to work in a call center

This job seeker has a visual impairment and is being considered for a position as a customer service representative for a call center. He has informed the company he needs screen reading software. The job will require him to use a single-ear Bluetooth headset with the telephone, so he will need to listen to the screen reader with his other ear.

Possible Recommendations:

The screen reader must be easy to use, robust, and have available customer support. Tools to consider include the computer’s built-in accessibility screen reading feature, JAWS Screen Reader, and the free, downloadable NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) Screen Reader. Built-in accessibility can be difficult to use and has limited features. The NVDA software is comparable to JAWS functionally; however, no technical support is available. These options need to be used with headphones or earbuds. Standard headphones cover both ears and block ambient sound. Earbuds offer the option of using one earbud with mono-audio but ambient sounds are blocked and quality is decreased. Aftershokz Bluetooth Headphones sit on the cheekbones and use bone-conduction technology to receive sound. The Aftershokz Bluetooth Headphones are also wireless allowing the job seeker to move around his workspace and the within the office building while working.

Goals and Outcomes:

The job seeker will utilize AT to successfully perform the job functions including answering the telephone and entering information in the computer database.

See the attached HAAT Model form for matching the employee to needed AT.

Case Study Forms – HAAT Model
Sample Solutions:

Case Study #2

Employee with low vision due to diabetic retinopathy, needs magnification, works in accounting office

This employee has worked for many years in the accounting department of a large university, but diabetic retinopathy has caused her to lose vision, and she now has difficulty performing work duties. Her position requires reading and entering sensitive personal and financial data in a database, operating commonly used office software, and reading from electronic files.

Possible Recommendations:

This employee will need a tool to magnify the computer screen. Tools to consider for magnifying digital content include built-in accessibility on a desktop computer. If more robust features are needed, ZoomText software may be used. Both options fully integrate with the computer, and enlarge and enhance everything on the screen. If the employee uses her current computer, there is no additional cost to using built-in accessibility.

Goals and Outcomes:

The employee will use AT to read documents received electronically and perform all of the functions of her job.

See the attached HAAT Model form for matching the employee to needed AT.

Case Study Forms – HAAT Model
Sample Solutions: 

Case Study #3

Massage therapist who is blind, needs tactile supports to work in therapy business

This employee is a licensed massage therapist who is blind and reads grade 1/beginner-level braille. She needs to be able to distinguish between bottles of various lotions and oils, and operate various appliances such as a washing machine, clothes dryer, hot towel warmer, and crockpot for warming stones.

Possible Recommendations:

The employee needs a labeling tool such as the 6Dot Braille Label Maker to create labels for the oils and lotions she will use when performing client massages. She will also need some inexpensive stickers of various shapes and textures for identifying buttons on appliances.

Goals and Outcomes:

The employee will use braille and tactile labels, to fully access equipment and materials she needs for practicing the trade for which she is trained and licensed.

See the attached HAAT Model form for matching the employee to needed AT.

Case Study Forms – HAAT Model
Sample Solutions:

 

Community Living

Case Studies of Individuals with Vision AT Needs and Recommendations 

Case Study #1

Toddler who is blind, developmentally delayed, needing activities for home

This toddler lost most of her eyesight due to brain damage from an injury. Prior to the injury, she was a typically developing baby. She has difficulty holding her head up and crawling. She needs to develop readiness skills for future socialization and academic activities.

Possible Recommendations:

Infants and toddlers with visual impairments need extra help to develop important concepts like object permanence. Consider constructing a play area with a low ceiling to hang toys or other objects that the child can feel them when he moves his arms or kicks his legs. This will provide opportunities for physical connection with objects. To improve the concept of sound localization, consider introducing toys that make sounds as these provide motivation for a toddler with low vision or blindness. This will help the child begin making associations between objects and their sounds. The Visually Impaired Activity Center and the Lighted Musical Tambourine are two tools that provide auditory, tactile, and visual supports to encourage interaction. Using balls, like the Jingle Bell Ball, that have interesting textures and make sounds when playing with infants and toddlers provides motivation for movement, with the goal of developing crawling and walking skills.

Goals and Outcomes:

This toddler will explore her world using toys and tools with interesting sounds and varied textures, leading to increased physical activity and human interaction.

See the attached HAAT Model form for matching this toddler to needed AT.

Case Study Forms – HAAT Model

Sample Solutions:

Case Study #2

Elderly nursing home resident, lost vision due to macular degeneration

This individual has a visual impairment and now lives in a retirement community, she would like to be able to read newspapers and novels to help pass the time between visits with friends and family. She also needs to be able to read medicine bottles and other items to help maintain some of her independence.

Possible Recommendations:

A variety of devices, software, and services are available to assist individuals who cannot read due to visual impairment or blindness including audiobook players like the iPad with Reading App and Built-in Accessibility Features and the BookPort Plus, low-tech portable magnifiers like an Easy Pocket Magnifier, and high-tech handheld electronic video magnifiers like the Ruby 7” HD Handheld Magnifier. Lower-tech options are often low cost, portable, and easy to use. Higher-tech options often include a digital camera which allows for storing images to magnify and read at a later time.

Goals and Outcomes:

The individual will use AT to keep her mind sharp, stay up-to-date on current events, and have more engaging social experiences in the nursing home.

See the attached HAAT Model form to see how to match this person with needed AT.

Case Study Forms – HAAT Model
Sample Solutions:

iPad with Book Reading App and Built-in Accessibility Features Inventory Link

Case Study #3

Retired homemaker who is blind, is experienced with technology and needs it for social interaction

This individual has used computers, smartphones, and braille reading technology for many years. She is looking for a small- to medium-sized electronic braille device to use at home and in the community.

Possible Recommendations:

Several options include the Braille Sense Polaris, BrailleNote Touch, and the Smart Beetle. The Braille Sense Polaris features a 32-cell display, while the BrailleNote Touch 32 combines the functionality of an iPad with a braille display. With just 14 cells, the Smart Beetle offers portability and convenience for reading electronic text from the internet on-the-go, when paired with a smartphone.

Goals and Outcomes:

The individual will use AT to increase knowledge and enthusiasm for interacting with friends and family via social media, helping her stay socially engaged and excited about life.

Case Study Forms – HAAT Model
Sample Solutions: