A lifelong athlete, Steve R. developed blindness in his later years. And assistive technology enabled Steve to continue his enthusiasm for sports: baseball, football, boxing, canoeing, surfing, and various martial arts. “I’m just here to say that all these things are available to you,” says Steve. “You can’t let anything stop you.” In addition, Steve has a fascination for vintage items. So, with his assistive technology, he was able to turn that passion into starting an antique business. Though he was never a “computer person,” he depended more and more on digital technology, his “only access to the outside world,” he says. Steve uses several apps. Early on, Steve used ZoomText, which magnifies the text on the screen of a computer or mobile device and increases contrast, but his condition deteriorated to the point he could no longer use it. He now uses a Windows-based screen reader called JAWS (Job Access With Speech). To navigate walking in the community, he uses MapQuest on his iPhone, a device with excellent accessibility features for people who are blind or visually impaired. (MapQuest is an example of a technology for the general consumer market that has found excellent use among people with disabilities.) A voice that tells what icon one is touching, and tapping the icon twice selects the feature. “Without the technology, I would have never known that these things existed,” he says.
MEET THE ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY
ZoomText actually comes three features: ZoomText Magnifier, ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, and ZoomText Fusion. The software magnifies digital text from 1.25 to 60 x. Unlike the zoom feature in most other applications, ZoomText maintains the resolution of each character. Ai Squared, the company that manufactures the software has a version for Mac as well. ZoomText Magnifier/Reader has the additional ability to read aloud documents, e-mail, and web pages, while ZoomText Fusion adds a complete screen reader.
JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a screen reader for users who visual impairment is severe enough to prevent them from reading screen content or navigating a mouse. Freedom Scientific, which produces JAWS, emphasizes that its software can also produce braille output. In addition, JAWS has an OCR feature that offers full access to PDF files with scanned images in that many other screen readers report as empty documents. JAWS is fully compatible with the MAGic large-print keyboard for low-vision users. And for blind users, there is Focus Blue, a braille input and outboard keyboard, which is available for loan to New Jersey residents to try out for free through our Technology Lending Center.
MapQuest is a free GPS mapping service that, when combined Apple’s built-in accessibility features on an iPhone, can help blind users navigate their immediate surroundings.
This article continues our honoring of Blindness Awareness Month, following our October 3 piece on Wayne K. Look in this space for our AssistiveTechTuesday piece on Tyion L., a blind high school student who happens to be a fan and an expert on Assistive Technology. Our coverage of Steve here also continues our honoring of National Disability Awareness Month. Please come back to this space to meet two of our consumers whose lives have been enhanced with the dignity of work and the independence it brings.
Assistive technology for the blind and visually imapired