Work and School Apps for the Blind
Below is a list of adaptive apps for iPad and iPhone that I typically recommend to folks. This list is mostly comprised of apps to support people at work and in school. This is not a comprehensive list, so I apologize if I miss your favorite.
Voice Dream Reader
This app makes reading text feel like listening to an audio book. The app reads a variety of documents with its own synthesized voice. It tracks your progress, offers a variety of options for audio and visual accommodations, and allows you to create notes, highlights, and bookmarks. You can import a variety of documents (HTML, Word, PDF, ePub). It will perform OCR on documents that do not include textual data. Further, it is setup to work with Bookshare, Google Drive, Dropbox, Project Gutenberg, and more.
Voice Dream Reader has a one-time cost of $14.99 on the Appstore. It comes with one free voice profile. Additional voices can be purchased for $4.99.
Jimmy’s Thoughts on Voice Dream Reader: It is tempting to call Voice Dream Reader an eBook reader but that would be misleading. While it does read eBooks from Bookshare, Gutenberg, or anything in DAISY or ePub format, almost all eBook platforms do not work with it. For example, I can’t purchase books from Kindle and hope to read them in the app. Regardless, this app is awesome for those dealing with lots of documents, taking classes, or using Bookshare.
Voice Dream Scanner
From the makers of Voice Dream Reader, Voice Dream Scanner is a print OCR app that works better than any other OCR product on the market. This app has great recognition and makes grabbing scans easier than ever. You can even take a scan of a page that is completely upside down and get fantastic recognition.
Voice Dream Scanner is available on the Appstore for $5.99.
Jimmy’s Thoughts on Voice Dream Scanner: Voice Dream Scanner is amazing. It has completely supplanted knfbReader as my go-to OCR app. The app is easy and powerful. Highly recommended.
From Microsoft, Seeing AI is a multifaceted app that can do a variety of functions: OCR, barcode scanning, money reading, image description, color ID, and light detection.
The app is free and available on the AppStore.
Jimmy’s Thoughts on Seeing AI: I think everyone should have this app. It has such a wide variety of features, and it is free! However, if I had serious OCR needs, I would highly recommend Voice Dream Scanner. Some folks find navigating the interface of the app to be somewhat difficult, but it shouldn’t be a problem if you’re confident with your VoiceOver skills.
BARD Mobile offers audio books and audio magazines from the National Library Service.
The app is free but you must have a BARD Mobile account which can be easily setup by becoming a patron of the ABLE library.
Jimmy’s Thoughts on BARD Mobile: A great free resource. BARD Mobile has a similar collection of works as you would find at a public library – general reference, popular reading, and bestsellers.
This app offers eText versions of daily newspapers and magazines. They have a wide collection of local (Burlington Free Press, Rutland Herald, Seven Days, etc.) and national newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Herald). They also have many magazines. You can become a member by signing up with DBVI, so please contact me if you’re interested.
This app is free to download, but you’ll need a membership to access the content.
Jimmy’s Thoughts on NFB Newsline: If you’re working with DBVI, you qualify for NFB Newsline. If you get your news elsewhere or are not interested, feel free to skip. But this is an amazing free resource.
Blindsquare is a GPS app to support folks with outdoor navigation. There are several GPS apps available for blind and visually impaired users. There are also dedicated GPS devices that perform in the same way. BlindSquare remains to be one of the best options on the market for GPS. The app works in tandem with your favorite map app (Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc.) to provide you with turn by turn walking directions and local information.
Blindsquare is available for the one-time cost of $39.99 on the Appstore. You can also spend additional money to unlock voice commands for the app.
Jimmy’s Thoughts on Blindsquare: My feeling about GPS apps and devices are that they are for folks who are extremely solid in their O&M abilities. These apps and devices are in no way a replacement for any O&M skills. Instead, they provide you with extra information and tools. For some, it is way too much information and they find trying to practice good O&M while listening to their phone give them updates and directions to be completely overwhelming. However, apps and devices like Blindsquare can provide people with extra tools to increase their independence.
Be My Eyes
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.
Be My Eyes is free.
Jimmy’s Thoughts on Be My Eyes: This is another mandatory app for blind and visually impaired users. It is free and easy to use. I have heard enough stories from clients about how the app was a life saver to recommend it without a doubt. Download it now.
Fantastical is an awesome calendar app that makes creating appointments and managing your events much easier for blind and low vision users. Rather than displaying your calendar in a difficult to navigate grid, the app gives you your calendar in a text list that is simple and clear. It is extremely easy to setup – you simply download and allow it access to your calendar, reminders, and contacts. Any accounts setup in your phone are automatically imported. Further, you can continue to use Siri to create and manage your calendar as well.
This app is free but offers premium membership that includes extra features and daily weather forecasts for $4.99 a month or $39.99 a year.
Jimmy’s Thoughts on Fantastical: This app is great for folks with good VoiceOver skills who want to manage their calendar. The premium membership isn’t necessary to get what you need from the app. Note that this app was $4.99 until very recently, it is now free.