Types of Computers for Blind People

by Melissa McCormick

Taking advantage of technology if you are handicapped can be a difficult task. However, take comfort in knowing that a variety of computers on the market are built specifically for the visually impaired. Better yet, more and more software and tools are designed today to allow the blind to use standard computers.

Braille Displays

Freedom Scientific claims the device feels like reading braille on paper.

If you are comfortable using braille, you may want to check out The Focus 40 Blue. The Focus 40, designed by Freedom Scientific, connects to a standard computer through a Universal Serial Bus connection or Bluetooth. You can then use the braille device to read the content on your screen. Freedom Scientific claims that the device feels just like reading braille on paper. The Focus 40 Blue costs $3,895.

Portable Device Synthesizers

Portable device synthesizers use an automated voice to read words out loud.

Another option for the visually impaired is a portable device synthesizer. These devices convert text on computers into spoken words. JAWS is a portable device synthesizer used for blind students in high school and college. Netscape Communications Corporation offers an OS/2 Warp 4 application that uses speech recognition. Productivity Works offers PWWebspeak 1.2; this program understands the hypertext language on computers and then speaks the words. Portable device synthesizers cost between $500 and $1,000.

Magnification Programs

Magnification programs provide magnification up to 36 times.

Magnification programs are ideal for people who are considered legally blind, but have maintained a small degree of vision. MAGic, by Freedom Scientific, can provide magnification up to 36 times the typical text size. Magnification programs also have color variations to make words more clear. Many magnification programs also come with speech technology to combine spoken words with magnification. These programs typically cost between $300 and $900.

SpeakEasy Media System

The SpeakEasy Media System is set up with weather forecasts.

If you prefer an all-in-one computer, the SpeakEasy Media System "speaks" as a custom menu tells users each step to take while using the computer. This computer is made specifically for the blind. It provides users with a tutorial and then helps to navigate users through the system, unlike a standard computer. The system is also preconfigured with an e-mail account, audio books, weather forecasts and more. The SpeakEasy Media System costs between $1,000 and $2,000.

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