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Apps for Users Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired

August 20, 2016 • sensorytravel

(UPDATED: September 25, 2018)

Time to bring back an old post of apps that can be used for independence in the community, for Orientation and Mobility, etc. Seems things are continuing to evolve and change at an ever increasing rate and updates to the original list have become necessary. At times an app will be updated by the developer and it may not have the same level of accessibility, at other times apps completely disappear from the various app stores when the developer is no longer supporting the app or the company is perhaps gobbled up by a larger company. In any event, I will continuing try to update this post on a regular basis, which may include significant changes as the app world evolves. These apps are either specifically designed for blind or visually impaired users or are apps that work well with VoiceOver on iOS or TalkBack on Android devices; many are multiplatform and available on iOS via the Apple Store, Android via Google Play, and Windows Phones via the Microsoft Store. The list is divided into several categories and there are quick links immediately following this paragraph to make it easier to jump to the category you are interested in. So, without further ado, here are the quick links and the list…

Accessibility Navigation and GPS Apps Transportation and Route Planning Weather

 

Accessibility:

Seeing AI

An app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide information about what the camera sees. Can read text, handwriting, describe scenes, identify items from their barcode, and more. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seeing-ai-talking-camera-for-the-blind/id999062298

Envision

This is another AI app that offers lots of options for obtaining information, even learning peoples faces. The app presently has a relatively small monthly subscription fee for iOS users, after an initial trial period; it is still free for use by Android users. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/envision-ai/id1268632314?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.letsenvision.envisionai&hl=en

KNFBReader

Text to speech by photograping print with automatic reading available and tactile guidance for aligning camera; expensive but very reliable and easy to use. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/knfbreader/id849732663?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sensotec.knfbreader

Amedia Live Reader

Wherever you point your camera and there is text, this app will begin reading the text. Once the app is open there are no required buttons to press; just point the camera toward the text and it will begin reading what the camera is seeing. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/amedia-live-reader/id1040357170?mt=8

Visor Low Vision

Easy to use screen magnification with very simple controls; open the app an it is ready, touch on the screen to focus, etc. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/visor-magnifier/id944215829?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.visorapp.visor&hl=en

Vision Assist

This app is like having a CCTV in your pocket, complete with options for zoom, contrast, reverse polarity, freeze frame, etc. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/visionassist/id502356279?mt=8

VoiceDream Reader

Document reader that reads many formats of documents and has high quality voice with available options for fine tuning the playback of the text. There is also a lite version which is free. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/voice-dream-reader/id496177674?mt=8

TextGrabber (free)

Text to speech using optical character recognition (OCR) by photographing text with the camera iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/textgrabber-image-to-text/id438475005?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.abbyy.mobile.textgrabber.full&hl=en

NantMobile Money Reader (free)

Money identifier that works with twenty-one different currencies from around the world. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nantmobile-money-reader/id417476558?mt=8

EyeNote (free)

Money identifier from the United States Mint. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/eyenote/id405336354?mt=8

Examine Clothes Color (free)

Color identifier that works quite well in describing even complex patterns. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/examine-clothes-color/id1074506449?mt=8

Color Identifier

Color identifier (choose basic colors once added unless you would like much more modern or esoteric names for colors) iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/color-identifier/id363346987?mt=8

TapTapSee (free)

Can take photographs and describe what is in the photograph or describe what a photograph is if it is already in your camera roll iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/taptapsee-blind-visually-impaired/id567635020?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.msearcher.taptapsee.android&hl=en

BeSpecular (free)

Can take photographs and receive a voice recorded or typed question, that then goes to a crowdsourced pool of volunteers who will answer the given question about what is in the photograph or describe what a photograph it is if it is already in your camera roll (e.g. what kind of soup is this? what is the code date on this medicine jar?, etc.) iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bespecular-help-the-blind/id1068947453?mt=8

Be My Eyes (free)

To quote their website, “Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.” iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/be-my-eyes-helping-blind-see/id905177575?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bemyeyes.bemyeyes

Drafts 4

Basic note taker that will automatically save any note you write and will also integrate with the Reminders app on iOS devices iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/drafts-4-quickly-capture-notes/id905337691?mt=8

Scan

Easy QR code (quick response code) and barcode reader. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scan-qr-code-barcode-reader/id411206394?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=me.scan.android.scan&hl=en Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/scan-qr-code-and-barcode-reader/9wzdncrdr9tp  

 

Navigation and GPS Apps:

Apple Maps and Siri (built in iOS app, free)

Apple Maps is built into iOS devices and can provide spoken location information and pedestrian directions as well as use VoiceOver and Siri for accessibility. There are a number of cities that Apple Maps provides public transportation information for, but to date it only covers a portion of cities around the world; you can find the list of supported cities at the following link for information on Apple Maps: https://www.apple.com/ios/feature-availability/#maps-transit

Google Maps with Google Now and TalkBack (free)

Along with knowing the current location, can also provide location and directions with voice input and provide spoken details iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-maps/id585027354?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.maps&hl=en Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/gmaps/9wzdncrfj12k

Compass (built in iOS app, free)

This app is built into every iPhone and can be used with Zoom or VoiceOver to make the information accessible

Speaking Colored Compass (free)

A basic talking compass app that has excellent contrast as well. Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tekin.fatih.speakingcolorcompass&hl=en

Speaking Compass (free)

Speaks the direction every four seconds; includes the cardinal name as well as the degrees. Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.talking.compass&hl=en

Microsoft Soundscape

 

This app allows you to hear what’s around you in 360 degree sound or 3D Audio Technology. You can set landmarks and then navigate to them or hear them in your environment to aid in orientation; some points of interest will be known and others you can add yourself. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindsquare/https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/microsoft-soundscape/id1240320677?ls=1&mt=8

 

Nearby Explorer

At present, there is one version of this app for iOS (a paid version) and there are two versions of this app for Android devices (a paid version and a free version). The paid version is a full featured GPS app and the free version, called Nearby Explorer Online, is similar but requires a constant data connection as the maps live online rather than being stored on the device as they are in the full, paid version. As a special note, the is the option of utilizing APH Quota Funds for students in the United States) iTunes Store for full, paid version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nearby-explorer/id1095698497?mt=8 iTunes Store for free, Online version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nearby-explorer-online/id1095699328?mt=8 Google Play Store for full, paid version: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.aph.avigenie&hl=en Google Play Store for free version, Online version: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.aph.nearbyonline&hl=en

BlindSquare

Terrific GPS app that is tailored to travelers who are blind and visually impaired. It integrates with other apps, such as Google Maps and Transit to provide route details with public transportation. Best value for price and features in this category. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindsquare/id500557255?mt=8

Lazarillo GPS for Blind (free)

A relatively new addition to the field of accessible GPS apps; this one is available on both iTunes and Google Play and its price is a perfect match for trying it out. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lazarillo-accesible-gps/id1139331874?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lazarillo

NowNav

Very reasonably priced GPS app for Android systems; this is also a free version (see NotNav) that does not include some of the features available in the paid app. Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smithson.nownav

NotNav (free)

Free GPS app available for Android users. Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smithson.notnav

Seeing Eye GPS

Full featured GPS app that has been developed specifically for blind and low vision travelers. The app is free to download and use for the first 30 days, but requires subscription to use after the initial trial period. There is also a fully paid version without subscription that is named Seeing Eye GPS XT. iTunes Store for subscription version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seeing-eye-gps/id668624446?mt=8 iTunes Store for full price, non-subscription version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seeing-eye-gps-xt/id945756779?mt=8

Ariadne

Very handy and accurate app for providing information about travel environment, such as direction of travel, landmarks, addresses, and street names, but does not generate point to point route directions. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ariadne-gps/id441063072?mt=8

 

Transportation and Route Planning:

Google Maps (free)

Great way to have a national, in fact an international connection to travel planning. Allows user to select directions based on travel modes of vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, or transit iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-maps/id585027354?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.maps&hl=en Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/gmaps/9wzdncrfj12k

Apple Maps and Siri (built in iOS app, free)

There are a number of cities that Apple Maps supports public transportation information as well, but to date it only covers a portion of cities around the world, you can find the list of supported cities at the following link for information on Apple Maps: https://www.apple.com/ios/feature-availability/#maps-transit

CapMetro (free)

Austin area public transit, but many transit companies have their own app that can be searched for in app store, free iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/capmetro/id787315615?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.bytemark.cmta Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/capmetro/9nblggh0djx8 

Transit (free)

Transportation planning app with large bold numbers for bus routes; this app immediately shows you which bus routes are nearest to you and in many areas provides real time arrival information. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/apple-store/id498151501?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thetransitapp.droid&hl=en

Moovit (free)

Transportation information for most areas. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/moovit-your-local-transit/id498477945?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tranzmate&c=Moovit_Website&pid=Moovit_Website Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/moovit/9wzdncrfhzk0

Where To?

To find what is nearby, such as restaurants, banks, etc.; paid version seems to work best with VoiceOver iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/where-to-find-best-places/id903955898?mt=8

 

Weather:

Dark Sky

Weather app that tells how long until rain is at your present location iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dark-sky-hyperlocal-weather/id517329357?mt=8

Technology in Orientation and Mobility

May 8, 2015 • sensorytravel

2015-05-08

Technology in Orientation and Mobility

A question came in about how technology is used during Orientation and Mobility lessons and I had so much fun typing the E-mail response I thought I would share it as a blog post.

There are so very many options today in terms of technology, but the basics of life shared in the terrific book Finding Wheels are still as relevant today as ever. The foundation of travel and getting where you want to go is enhanced by technologies but one still needs that special gray matter between the ears, a white cane or guide dog if non-visual or partial visual travel skills are needed, and a healthy serving of common sense. That being said, on with the toys : )

The Trekker Breeze is quite familiar to most folks as an accessible GPS solution that is on the verge of getting much, much better. HumanWare is about to release Trekker Breeze Plus. The Plus version will appear the same on the outside but the inside will have improved components that allow quicker and more stable connections to satellites, the ability to “lock in” Open Area mode, and I am sure a bevy of other enhancements. For those that have already purchased a Trekker Breeze, there is no need to take out a loan for the $800 to purchase a new device; there will be a $199 upgrade program. HumanWare will rebuild the originally purchased Trekker Breeze, giving it a new GPS module as well as a new battery if you send it in once the program gets up and running. Hopefully things will start happening toward the middle to end of May, 2015.

In terms of iOS and Android devices, there are a multitude of apps to choose from. A curated list of favorites with links and descriptions can be found at the blog post “Apps for Independence in the Community and Orientation and Mobility”

In terms of lessons with students (could also be used with Adults), here is another post with tech activities that can be done for each area of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) during Orientation and Mobility lessons; “Mixing O&M, Technology, and the Expanded Core Curriculum”.

Oh, just one more note, this will all be updating soon as folks begin using the “taptic engine” in the Apple Watch as it will give tactile/haptic feedback to the wrist to alert the traveler when a turn is required along a route; there are different taps for right and left turns.

Geocaching and Letterboxing for Orientation and Mobility Lessons

May 7, 2015 • sensorytravel

 

Geocaching and Letterboxing for Orientation and Mobility Lessons

For those wanting to add some creative adventures to their Orientation and Mobility lessons, you can introduce the concept of Geocaching and Letterboxing.

Here are some suggestions for activities:

  • Have prepared locations for “letterboxing” with described directions, using cardinal directions from a known landmark and use the compass (braille, talking, or app from smart phone) as an orientation tool.

  • Have students enter the location of a cache with latitude and longitude coordinates into BlindSquare (iOS) or APH Nearby Explorer (Android) to get some prompting by tracking the coordinates as a landmark.

  • For a team activity, braille the clues and hints so that students can use their compensatory skills to read to the group.

  • To develop concepts for Orientation and Mobility, be sure to use words that emphasize the concept in the directions, such as parallel and perpendicular, traffic side of sidewalk, cardinal directions, with the landmark behind you, etc.

  • Consider making a sample activity plan to share with parents and families so they can participate with their child as well

The Geocaching app on the iPhone with VoiceOver affords a way to search for the presence of caches in your area, but as far as using it in an accessible way, it is a bit of a challenge. The app has a compass to direct the user but the compass position is not read by VoiceOver due to the app design. What you can get from the app is the latitude and longitude of the cache itself which can then be entered into another app that is more accessible. One such app that is specifically developed for users with visual impairment and blindness is BlindSquare (costs about $29.99). BlindSquare allows a user to enter their own places as landmarks and then edit the location with latitude and longitude coordinates. The technical part is that Geocaching displays coordinates in a hybrid form (e.g. 32˚ 49.818′ N and 116˚ 46.574′ W) while BlindSquare uses Decimal degrees (e.g. 32.8303˚ N and 116.7762˚ W); luckily there are free conversion apps you can get that will do the conversion for you. You can also use programs and apps like Google Maps to get the latitude and longitude of a location anywhere on the planet without having to have physically traveled there to set it as a landmark. This lets you have guidance to where you would like to travel. BlindSquare can provide directions with cardinal directions (N, S, E, W), relative directions (To Your Right, To Your Left, etc.), or clock face (toward One O’Clock, or Three O’Clock), and can have distances expressed as feet or meters. 

The app will get you close to the cache but locating the actual box will be more manual. One way to adapt this is to arrive early and to have a sound module with a motion sensor (such as the kind used in halloween decorations where the sound effect occurs as you walk by, [ http://www.electronics123.com/shop/product/300-second-usb-recording-module-with-motion-sensor-and-black-enclosure-5324?search=motion ]) placed at the cache or coordinate directions with tactile landmarks that will be clues to bring the students in closer. At some point you may be able use things like iBeacons and “Nearables” (just visit Estimote.com for fun dreaming about how you could use the technology). Another strategy is to use a wireless doorbell. The main unit can be placed at the cache site and the button for the doorbell can be used by the student looking for the cache, as they get within range the doorbell will respond to the button press and provide a sound clue of where to head to ([ http://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-RCWL300A1006-Premium-Portable-Wireless/dp/B001CMLAZ4/ref=sr\_1\_1?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1431017857&sr=1-1&keywords=wireless+doorbell ]).

Letterboxing sites:

Geocaching sites:

 

Chris Tabb, 2015-05-07

chris@sensorytravel.com