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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Blind/Visual Impairment: Common Assistive Technologies

This guide provides resources on the Blind and Visual Impairments.

What are assistive technologies?

The Technology Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 described an assistive technology device as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities."

Assistive technologies can be "high tech" and "low tech:" from canes and lever doorknobs to voice recognition software and augmentative communication devices (speech generating devices).

Mobility

Service Dogs

Service dogs are dogs that are trained to help their owner with a specific disability. For example, dogs can be trained to pick things up, A golden retriever with a service dog vestvisually guide those with visual impairments, remind you to take medication, or help those with poor balance.

  • Service dogs can go to public places with their owners, even places that dogs are not usually allowed to go like airplanes or restaurants.

Canes

Various types of canes, most popularly the long cane, can help individuals who are blind or have low vision navigate with confidence.

Electronic Mobility Aids

Electronic mobility aids are devices that use ultrasonic waves to reflect off of obstacles in front of the individual to tell them what is coming in front of them. The usefulness of these devices is debated and they often need to be used in conjunction with a long cane or a service dog. Some examples include:

Reading Assistance

These assistive technologies are examples of software/devices that can help those who are blind or visually impaired read printed material or surf the web.

Employees with Visual Impairments

Finding Assistive Technology

Mobile Applications