This is my first blog post with Access Technology North, in fact if I am completely honest it is my first blog post ever! So, I thought I’d start by telling you a little bit about myself and the reasons why I feel I can offer advice on some of the apps that may be useful for visually impaired people.

I started working as an Assistive Technology Consultant with Access Technology North back in May, so whilst the dust has settled, I am still known as the newbie. I have to say I have been made to feel extremely welcome though (thanks everyone!). Whilst I love gadgets and anything to do with technology, I qualified as a Rehabilitation Officer for visually impaired people over 12 years ago. I am pleased to say that technology for visually impaired people has moved on somewhat from the old MP3 players and mobile phones with buttons that I used when I was training. Most people own smart phones these days. They are used not only as a way of keeping in touch with people but by using the Apps that are available it can make day to day tasks for many, a whole lot easier. It also means you don’t need to carry around lots of separate gadgets.

I think one of the most common myths surrounding visual impairment is that ‘blind people’ see nothing at all, when in fact less than 4% of people registered with a sight loss see total blackness. I’ve tried to select a variety of free apps that will suit people who are trying to either maximise their useful vision or who have no sight at all but I have to say it was very difficult limiting it to 5 so please be aware there are many more out there.

So, here are my top 5 VI friendly apps:

Seeing AI is an app available on both Android and iOS platforms that can be used with Voiceover. It will scan barcodes and to help you locate the barcode, it provides a series of beeps. It will scan and read out documents, tell you what’s in photos and if you have iOS 11 or above it will tell you what currency notes you have.

Supersense is available for android platforms and is suitable for both sight impaired and severely sight impaired people. It uses the camera on your smartphone to scan the environment around you and doesn’t require internet connection. It will not only tell you what is around you but also help you locate specific objects such as doors, chairs, windows etc.

Magnifying glass with light is available on iOS platforms and is suitable for people with residual vision it uses your camera on your device and will magnify up to 10x. It also has a handy light for those people needing to make it brighter and there is an option to freeze images too.

Soundscape for iOS is a navigation app that uses 3D audio clues to help you navigate the outdoor environment. It is suitable for both sight impaired and severely sight impaired people but its always best to seek route learning from a mobility specialist before using this for the first time.

Color Blind Pal is available on iOS and android platforms. It is a new app that is designed for people with colour blindness to help them to identify colours. However, it can be used with voiceover and is a very accurate colour identifier.

Apps can be really useful tools to maximise a person’s independence.

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