From Smartphones To Facebook, Here's How The Blind Interact With Modern Technology

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Photo: Jason611 via Flickr

We recently became curious about how the blind use modern technology.How do they interact with computers? The Internet? Mobile phones?

We had the pleasure to speak with Jed Barton about this very topic. He’s a tech-obsessed guy working in the communications field, designing radio systems for emergency dispatchers.

Jed’s also been blind since birth.

Screen-reading software

If you're going to use a computer, you need some way to know what's happening on screen and where your mouse is. A number of screen-readers are available for those who want them -- it's software that makes your computer verbally talk to you and tell you what's happening.

Jed swears by Window-Eyes, software made by GW Micro.

Here's a demo of how Window-Eyes works

What about special keyboards?

They do exist, but most blind computer users will stick to a standard tactile QWERTY keyboard and just touchtype.

The web is very important to the blind

Jed told us, 'I can't pick up a magazine or newspaper the way a sighted person might. The web is my link to the outside world.'

Because it's all digital, screen reading software can easily read webpages to visually impaired users.


Facebook's desktop site is a challenge for blind users. Jed sticks with the mobile site.

'It's scaled down just enough,' he told us. 'You have your messages and everything you need.'

What about Twitter?

Twitter is much more accessible -- with it being a primarily text-based medium and that text being limited to 140 characters, it makes sense.

Mobile phones

When it comes to mobile phones, blind users rely on a similar screen-reading software optimised for phones. This software lets them take advantage of a phone's full range of capabilities -- phone calls, sending and receiving text messages, and even GPS.

A company called CodeFactory makes a product like this called Mobile Accessibility. Check out the video demo on the next slide.

Here's Mobile Accessibility in action

Apple's iOS has plenty of accessibility features built into it as well -- even Stevie Wonder's a fan

To conclude...

We asked Jed if he could do anything with modern technology that sighted user could do. His answer? A resounding 'Yes!'

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