My MD "Toys" - Apps for the Visually Impaired

I am Mac by religion. My brother-in-law used to tell me Apple was going to go the way of the dodo bird and I should just give in and get a PC. Now that his whole family has iPhones, I don’t rub it in...much.

Apple and apps

So, all that by way of saying, what I am going to talk about is available in Apple products and in the App Store. I have no clue what is in Google Play. And no, I am not getting any kickbacks. Apple does not need me to tout their products. They are doing great on their own.

Useful apps for the visually impaired

I am typing this page on my iPad mini. This poor, old thing with multiple cracks in its screen - it belongs to me and I am “hard on parts” as the saying goes - has a number of apps on it. Most of them were suggested by my habilitation specialist although some I found on my own.

Voice memos app

The first one I come to is Voice Memos. It is free in the App Store. I don’t often use it because I am still capable of taking pencil-and-paper notes and, hey, I am old school. However, it is extremely easy to use. You push the red button and talk. The sound quality is also good.

Magnify and Freeze app

The second thing I have that was recommended by my habilitation person (hi, Shelly!) is Magnify and Freeze. This is basically a magnifier with a one-shot camera. It is the poor man’s handheld, electronic magnifier because it is free. That was free, as in no cost, in the App Store. If finances are an issue, try this first before investing in an electronic magnifier. As long as you don’t have huge reading loads, it does the job pretty well.

KNFBReader app

And speaking of reading, something that was purchased for me when I first started on this journey is the KNFBReader. That is K for Kurzweil and NFB for National Federation of the Blind. The cost of this app is around $100. You take a picture of what you want to read and the iPad reads it to you. It generally does a nice job.

And just going off on a tangent for a moment here, if you say prayers, you might want to include Raymond Kurzweil. Kurzweil has made the lives of us visually impaired folks infinitely easier by being a pioneer in the field of optical character recognition and text to speech. God bless you, Raymond!

NaturalReader app

Optical character recognition (aka OCR) is included in many other apps, one of them being NaturalReader. I would say NaturalReader is the poor man’s KNFB Reader - it also is free in the App Store - but that would be misleading. NaturalReader reads PDF files. If you want to have an email or an online article read to you, NaturalReader can open the file and “read” it. It does not use the camera to take a photo of what you want to read.

Accessible forms of reading

FYI if you have purchased a book, such as a textbook, and you have a communication disability, you are entitled to an electronic version of that book. (Remind me to talk about the Chafee Amendment; will you, please?). With proper verification of that disability, the publisher must provide you with the material in an accessible form.

How does that relate in a conversation about iPad apps? Simple. When I was required to read a text for a course I took last year, I got the book in electronic form. I read it with NaturalReader.

Of course, you have to remember, any free app is not perfect. I got a giggle listening to the electronic voice talk about the “party cee pants” (participants) on what seemed like every page. Hey, OCR and a giggle all for free. Sometimes it doesn’t get any better! That’s it for now. Talk to you again next time!

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