Awareness Raising Fact Sheet

How does a person who is blind or vision impaired read information?

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Every person who is blind or vision impaired is different and not all people will access information in the same way.

A quick guide to adaptive technology

Many people who are blind or vision impaired of workforce age access information on a computer or laptop using screen reading software – this reads, line by line, the information presented on the screen audibly to the person using synthetic speech.

This does mean that the whole office will hear it – a person may wear headphones to discreetly hear the information they need. People will use combinations of keyboard keystrokes, rather than a mouse, to navigate emails, computer programs and the internet.

Some people, who have some usable reading vision, might use text enlargement software – this is a program loaded on to a computer which enlarges the text on the computer screen. The level of magnification can be increased until the text is large enough to be read.

A person may choose to use both text magnification and audible output to navigate their computer.

A small proportion of all people who are blind or vision impaired use Braille to read materials in the workplace. Braille is unparalleled when it comes to literacy.

Many Braille devices, which are portable, can be connected to a computer. This means that an employee who is blind or vision impaired can take notes on a Braille device away from the workplace, connect this to a computer and transfer their notes to a document to circulate to sighted staff. Staff won’t need to know how to read Braille as the document will come up in text.

A person who is competent in any or all of these technologies can be extremely efficient in managing their tasks and getting the job done.

What about printed information?

Some people who are legally blind (this means remaining vision ranging from 10% to no vision at all) may still be able to read standard print. Some people might use a magnifier, such as a closed circuit television (CCTV) to read their mail or printed documents.

A CCTV is a device which has an inbuilt camera and a document tray where a document can be placed for reading. The camera then picks up the image of the document and displays it on a monitor at a much higher resolution and magnification, making a document with small print easier to read.

New technology is also making it easier to access printed information. There are some computer programs which allow a person to scan a document and convert it to an accessible Word document to be read with adaptive technology.

Unfortunately, handwriting is very difficult to read for someone who is blind or vision impaired – no amount of scanning will make this accessible.

For more information about how to make reasonable adjustments for a person who is blind or vision impaired, call Job Access on 1800 464 800 or visit the Job Access website.