Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Technology for Braille Readers

Photo of tfingers reading a refreshable braille display


Technology changes more quickly than many of us can keep up with.  In many ways it levels the playing field, while in other ways it introduces new accessibility challenges.  Proficiency in the use of this technology is an important part of braille literacy today.   Regardless of the specific device one chooses, the starting place in making decisions about what technology to recommend or to purchase is to pose some basic questions.

1. What is the purpose of the device?
2. Where will it be used?
3. What are the student's needs and abilities?
4. What is the cost?
5. How important is portability?

Technology Resources for People with Vision Loss
American Foundation for the Blind

A Beginner’s Guide to Access Technology for Blind Students
by Steve Booth, International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC) (2008)

Overview of Technology for Visually Impaired and Blind Students
This web page from TSBVI includes information on braille translation software, braille embossers, braille displays, and portable devices.

Technology-Acquisition Strategies for Young Blind Students (2002)
Future Reflections, National Federation of the Blind

Digital Talking Books

Digital Talking Books (DTB) are a multimedia presentation of a print publication, rendered in audio with a human voice.  These include:

They can be played on a variety of players, including stand-alone devices and software players. 

To learn more, see the TSBVI webpage: Using Digital Talking Books (DTB) with Students.

IEP Objectives for Using Digital Talking Books
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Digital Talking Book Players

Many people are familiar with commercially available e-readers, such as the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad.  In addition, there are a number of E-Readers that are primarily designed for users who are blind or visually impaired.

Victor Reader Stream
Photo of Victor Reader

The Victor Reader Stream is a digital talking book player, available from Humanware, which first became available in the summer of 2007.

Hand holding BookPort Plus. 
Book Port Plus
American Printing House for the Blind

This is another popular digital talking book player and is available from APH using quota funds (i.e. at no cost to the school district).


Screen Readers and Refreshable Braille Displays

A screen reader is a software application that uses text-to-speech with a speech synthesizer or a braille display to give a computer user access to the text on a computer screen.

Screen Readers
American Foundation for the Blind

Screen Reading Software    
Vision Aware

Introduction to the Screen Reader  (video)
Division of Information Technology, University of Wisconsin at Madison

      In this 6 minute video, Neal Ewers of the Trace Research Center demonstrates how screen readers assist people who are blind navigate the web, access the electronic page, and more.

Screen Readers and Braille Displays with Sharon Nichols, Assistive Technology videos for the Blind and Visually Impaired with Sharon Nichols, a TSBVI Outreach Consultant

What is Refreshable Braille?

Sometimes known as Photo of person sitting at keyboard with refreshable braille display."paperless braille", a refreshable braille display has a row of braille cells made of plastic or metal pins.  The pins in the braille cells are contolled by the computer and match the words on the screen.  The braille cells change as the user moves around on the computer screen.

Refreshable Braille Displays
Inclusive Design Research Centre

This page includes a description of refreshable braille displays, points to ponder when shopping, and a list of products.

Braille Technology
American Foundation for the Blind

Teaching Computer Skills To Children with Visual Impairments: A Concept-Based Approach
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The Visually Impaired Web User's Technology
American Foundation for the Blind

Your Tech Vision
This site offers a wide range of educational activities, instruction, and keystroke-based lessons for students who are blind or visually impaired, as well as for the sighted adults who work with them.  Some of the lessons are free, while others require purchase.


intoduction to technology collage