Smiling Young Man and his mom

STAFF PICKS: Cristen Reat on Low Vision AT

Cristen Reat, our Co-Founder and Program Director, has a 19-year-old son with a visual impairment plus Down syndrome. The following are apps she has found to be helpful assistive technology (AT) for making his world more visible.

  1. CanTunes: One of Vincent’s favorite options for enjoying music without caregiver help. To help users with vision challenges make selections, the app features large arrows; extra-large icons of song names and album covers; and a large high-contrast slider for adjusting volume. Makes it much easier to listen whenever the user wants! (CanTunes is free to download. Designed for iPads, it displays up to 20 icons at once and minimizes control buttons to ensure simplicity of use.)
  2. Learning Ally: We love browsing the huge library (over 80,000 books) for stories that are recorded by real humans for reading aloud. Vincent relies primarily on his listening skills due to his vision challenges, but he also loves the option to see each word highlighted in large font as it is read. We can adjust reading speeds to help him follow along at a personally comfortable pace. (Learning Ally offers audiobooks for adults as well as children: any item can be downloaded directly from the app. Access requires a paid account and proof of disability.)
  3. Light Box for Low Vision: A digital, more affordable and portable version of the standard “lightbox” for exercising visual and visual-motor skills. (A lightbox displays visual arrangements to illustrate stories in easy-to-grasp form: complexity and contrast are adjusted to the user’s abilities.) Vincent loves using this app on the go. He can change his background color preference, and practice visual tracking by activating different shapes that move within the app. It is highly enjoyable and motivating!
  4. Seeing AI: Vincent is learning to use this free app (also the Juno, a tablet-size video magnifier) to have text enlarged and read aloud to him. Seeing AI also describes the user’s surroundings and identifies colors, currency, furniture, even faces and emotions. A great way to open a larger world to anyone with any level of sight impairment.
  5. SnapType Pro: We love this app for typing words into school worksheets or any other paper with fill-in-the-blank lines. Though Vincent is a slow typist, he loves personally adding things. SnapType has many helpful options such as enlarging the blanks, or changing contrast and font color. Just link to a device camera and “snap” a picture of the original hard-copy document: the app generates a digital copy to work with. (A free version of SnapType is available, but the paid Pro version has unlimited document storage plus document-sharing options.)

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