Technology for the Visually Impaired

Technology for the Visually Impaired

The Spanish National Organization of the Blind emphasizes that new technological tools make it easier for blind people to access information. Moreover, the devices allow them to feel equal to others with complete autonomy.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, around 285 million people worldwide have some visual impairment. Some 39 million are blind, 0.9% of the population.

In this context, technology must make the digital revolution accessible to everyone. Otherwise, we will fall at the risk of exclusion, and a part of society will remain on the sidelines.

Typhlotechnology

This welcomes the origin of tiflotechnology, the set of resources that help people who are blind or have other disabilities to access technology. These resources facilitate full development in all areas of life: health, education, culture, employment, leisure, or sport.

We are talking about adapted devices such as tablets, whiteboards, cell phones, software, printers, scanners, or virtual assistants. In recent years, technology has brought a lot of progress to people with reduced vision or blindness.

The Spanish National Organization for the Blind is a crucial player in this search for technological solutions to the needs of visually impaired people.

Tiflotechnology Center

For this purpose, it has the Tiflotechnology and Innovation Center. It develops new software solutions and evaluates hardware and software devices and solutions marketed by other companies.

It also designs products manufactured by the Innovation Center in collaboration with other companies and manufactures products according to existing demand.

This department has a wide range of products, where technology is a fundamental part. These include 3D printers, electronic magnifying glasses, players, and software.

Many companies are dedicated to marketing and innovating products to mitigate the problems caused by poor vision.

For example, technological innovation makes excellent strides in tactile braille displays that function much like ordinary tablets.

Another example is BlueTooth beacons that act as guides to reach a store, restaurant, or public building entrance or move around inside it.

Spanish success

Great strides are present in research in Spain, such as the Miguel Hernández University of Elche experiment, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

This is a brain implant based on intracortical microelectrodes capable of inducing the perception of shapes and letters in a blind person. This microdevice safely puts direct stimulation of the cerebral cortex. It produces visual perceptions with a much higher resolution than achieved to date.

Intelligent lenses

Another chapter to highlight is the so-called smart lenses. Although they are in their embryonic stage, they aim, thanks to artificial intelligence, to provide intuitive information about everything around them.

Wearables such as apps for people with greater or lesser vision impairment improve their quality of life and autonomy. Many of the applications identify objects and texts through photographs and even video. Artificial intelligence and data work their magic to describe what the person is nearby audio.

Replacing white sticks with electronic devices: new technologies for the visually  impaired | Euronews

Help in the workplace

Another example of this relationship between innovation and inclusion is the accessible terminal (POS). The result of a project that ONCE and Telef├│nica developed to improve the daily activity of salespeople.

This terminal lets the customer know if the coupon has won a prize and the possibility of cashing it in. The customer can also choose the number he wants and even return the coupons.

Getting around on the street

Unfortunately, accessibility is a fundamental right that still has some time to go before being fully implemented in our cities.

However, technological innovations are also helping to ensure the safety of blind people when they leave their homes.

Long gone are the days when a blind person had only a cane to help them avoid bumping into any object on the sidewalk.

Now gadgets make it safer for them to walk on public roads. This is the case of intelligent canes that avoid collisions with objects and barriers. Above the blind person’s waist, thanks to a clever handle equipped with sensors.

Others are loaded with much more technology. In addition to including sensors, they are connected to a mobile phone application.

Many resources are developed

From adjustment assistance for the visually impaired or absent to financial aid for the blind. These resources can provide help and information to make everyday life easier and improve the quality of life. There are programs and services to provide educational, professional, medical, legal, adjustment, and support services for people with vision loss.

The Technology and Education Center provides the blind and visually impaired with the latest advancements in assistive technology. The National Federation of the Blind offers a wide range of services, including training and education, assistive technologies and products, advocacy and awareness-raising, and awareness of the blind or visually impaired capabilities. “Blind Abilities” produces a podcast about accessibility, technology, and devices for the blind. “That Real Blind Tech Show” is a podcast that discusses the pros and cons of assistive technology for people with visual impairments and blindness.

Assistive technologies are devices and software designed to enable blind or visually impaired people to perform daily activities. Such as reading, writing, watching TV, and using a computer. The products, devices, and equipment used to maintain, enhance, or improve the functional abilities of people with visual impairments. Assistive technology for the blind and visually impaired consists of products, tools, or services designed to increase independence.

Technology made to help

This technology, commonly known as assistive or adaptive technology, is constantly evolving and has removed many barriers to entry for the visually impaired. It thrives on remapping the vision of visually impaired people with devices. These combine smartphones and virtual reality headsets to modulate the field of view and help people see better. For example, visually impaired people can use screen magnifying software and devices to see letters, pictures, and other objects without straining their remaining eyesight.

Education can also help people adapt to technology if they have vision problems or are blind. By knowing the general terms for assistive technology for the visually impaired, their families and other professionals can feel more responsible when they enter the world around them. For example, I used to think that there is no assistive technology for the visually impaired because I can’t read braille. It certainly isn’t: there are so many different things that visually impaired people can use to access the world around them.

Users may also adapt video magnifiers, accessibility features on their computers (including text magnification), text-to-speech programs, and speech recognition software to help people with vision problems. The App Store and Google Play Store also offer downloadable apps designed for the visually impaired to help them connect to access tools. When looking for online resources for the blind and visually impaired, many tools, resources, and solutions meet most needs. They can also connect to a database of more than 1,000 people with visual impairments who have volunteered as mentors to youth and adults seeking career information.

The Practice of Applying AI to Benefit Visually Impaired People in China |  November 2021 | Communications of the ACM

Resources you can seek

Many YouTube channels are an excellent way for visually impaired people to learn about the latest assistive technologies and learn how to use the accessibility features of their devices. For example, Assistech provides assistive technology for the deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, speech impairments, physical disabilities, and people with mobility/dexterity problems, memory loss, and cognitive impairments. In addition, people usually learn how to use sticks for blindness from Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialists trained to help people navigate non-visually in their environment.

For the blind and visually impaired, canes and guide dogs help avoid obstacles and warn others of your low vision. Current low-tech mobile devices such as walking sticks can help people with visual impairments increase their mobility. Still, they do not help in other aspects of everyday life. Researchers at the University of Georgia have created a new technology to help blind or visually impaired people navigate independently. Screen reader software and memorable speech and braille devices enable visually impaired people to use computers, mobile phones, and other electronic devices alone.

All this suggests that modern technologies make life easier for everyone. In the case of the visually impaired, allow us to do even the simplest things that others may not have to think. Combined with over millions of apps currently available for iOS, Android, and other mobile devices, these innovations are helping to transform education, work, and play opportunities for people with visual impairments. By making technological advances work for the benefit of healthcare, blind or visually impaired people can return to their normal lifestyle in innovative ways.

New technology is being made

For example, several innovative solutions for the visually impaired have recently emerged, offering different types of features and functions suitable for a range of visual impairments. From watches and talking, scales to keyboard touchpoints, digital magnifiers, and OrCam readers, anyone with low vision can access a curated collection of the most prevalent eye care technologies from the leading blindness treatment organization.

You can design your websites, software, and hardware with blind users and upgrade existing technology to make it accessible. In other words, simple tasks that previously might have required the help of a sighted person can easily be performed entirely independently by people with or without low vision.

The student will need assistive technologies to give them access to all the resources that others can use to meet their learning needs. For example, a student returning to school will need assistive technologies that can help them perform various activities, such as accessing content and reading textbook information, participating in virtual assessments, and participating in a classroom.