Low-Tech Devices for People with Visual Impairments
With all the attention being given to high-tech solutions these days, it is important not to neglect the low-tech items that can also benefit people who are blind or visually impaired. There are many important tasks that can best be done quickly and simply by using a low-tech device. In this document, "low-tech" refers to any device without a microprocessor.
Braille Hand Writing
Many low-tech and inexpensive devices are available to assist people with visual impairments in writing, either in print or Braille. Braille users can employ a stylus and a variety of Braille slates for writing on index cards, labeling cassettes, making marginal notes as well as for writing more formal documents. "Low-tech" hand writing aids include large print items and formats, such as large print check books and raised line notepaper, and writing templates which fit over standard documents, such as envelopes, checks, note paper and signature lines. These templates are made of metal, plastic or stiff cardboard, and provide spatial orientation for the user to handwrite critical information.
People who have some usable vision have a choice of magnification aids to use in all manners of situations. These devices include pocket sized magnification glasses, as well as devices for enlarging a line of print, or even an entire page of print at one time. Monocular and binocular devices can be used for magnifying items at a distance, such as street signs and marquees. Many magnification devices include attached lighting for enhanced visibility.
Kitchen and Household Items
Many common kitchen and household devices are available with large print and/or Braille markings. These include measuring devices and replacement controls for appliances. Many gadgets have been designed or modified to produce audible cues or even limited speech. These include liquid level indicators, talking thermometers, and talking bathroom scales.
Many existing products for home school or office can be easily modified to make them more usable for people who have visual impairments. Various Braille and tactile tags can be obtained to mark clothing and canned or frozen food items. Braille and large print dymo-tape labeling guns, are available to assist with labeling. In some cases, however, careful application of masking tape or spots of glue may provide the needed tactile markings.
Watches, Clocks and Timers
Time keeping devices have been designed in a variety of ways to make them more useful to people with visual impairments. Such devices typically involve large print displays, Braille markings, "speech" chips, or some combination. The range of such devices includes wristwatches, portable alarms, clock radios, kitchen and medication timers. Some of these devices, such as talking clocks, are readily available at retail stores such as Radio Shack and K-Mart.
**Radio Shack, Sharper Image or other stores that supply electronic devices may also carry low-tech devices for the visually impaired.