Technology for students who are blind or have low vision

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People who are blind or have low vision rely on a broad range of software tools and devices to read, learn and work.

Most people own assistive technology without even knowing it. Most computers, smartphones and tablets for sale in Australia already have screen readers, screen magnifiers and other tools for blind and low vision users installed. You simply have to go into the menu on your device and turn them on.

Students who are blind or have low vision need the best combination of technologies to suit their learning needs. Some students receive support from Itinerant Teachers (Vision) who work directly with students and advise on students’ specific needs. These teachers work closely with school staff to assist the student to receive access to the curriculum and teaching and learning experiences.

Options for low vision students

Screen magnifiers

A screen magnifier is a piece of software which allows a user to enlarge what appears on screen and change colour settings to suit their needs. They are commonly used by people who have partial vision, as well as those with colour blindness.

Apple Mac, iPad and iPhone

Apple has a reputation for integrating the needs of users with a disability into the design of its products. iPads and iPhones are popular choices for users who are blind or have low vision around the world. All devices come with the Zoom screen magnifier installed.

On an iOS device, triple click the home button to bring up the accessibility options and select Zoom. On a Mac, press Option+Command+8.

Microsoft Windows

Computers and tablets with Windows 7 and 8 come with Magnifier installed. To turn this on, click on the Start button and type ‘magnifier’ into the search field.

There are also a number of alternative magnifiers for Windows computers, including ZoomText, MAGic and Glassbrick.

Options for students who are blind

Screen readers

A screen reader is a piece of software that converts the text on screen into audio. It is the most common tool used by those who are blind. Our assistive technology page contains more information on screen readers.

Microsoft Windows

The default screen reader for Windows 7 and 8 is Narrator. Although it has improved in recent years, it is not very commonly used. Most Windows users choose JAWS or the free alternative NVDA. NVDA is particularly useful for students as it can be put on a USB drive and used across different computers at home and at school. There is also technical support and training available.

Apple iOS and Mac

VoiceOver is the screen reader that comes with Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices. On an iOS device, triple click the home button to bring up the accessibility options and select VoiceOver. On a Mac, press Command + F5.

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