Library banner (20858 bytes)

Collection: Technology for Students Who Are Visually Impaired

Purple arrow (1137 bytes)Combination Access

NCIP Staff (1994)

The following is a description of products that incorporate a variety of features to facilitate access to computers for individuals with visual impairments. It also includes descriptions of specific products to illustrate the technology. Inclusion of a product's name does not imply endorsement of that product and descriptions of products are supplied by the manufacturers and are not evaluations of the products. Combination Access refers to those products that offer access to computer technology using a combination of features, incorporating more than one modality, i.e., braille or other tactile access with speech or magnification. Sometimes these products are referred to as "hybrids." The following is a description of some of these products in order to illustrate some of the technology available.

[Notetakers | Other Combination Products]



The most common combination of modalities in technology products today is braille input with speech output. The advantage of this combination is that it enables the user to input Braille directly and monitor the input quickly through speech. Products such as Personal Touch, Braille 'n' Speak, BrailleMate and Mountbatten Brailler have these features. Many of these products are referred to as notetakers or personal data assistants because they are portable (light and battery operated) and useful in classroom or meeting situations. The student can input in braille during class, monitor the Braille through speech, and print out the edited text in braille or text later. Some of these products offer special features such as talking calculators and calendars and telephone directories. Others have built-in refreshable Braille displays for monitoring and editing in Braille as well. Other products, such as Type 'n' Speak, offer the standard "QWERTY" keyboard for text inputting rather than Braille.

Sample Products

Other Combination Products


Other products have features designed to address the problem a user with visual impairment may have with the spatial arrangement of objects on the screen or of technology itself. The products David and DM-80/FM, both by BAUM, have a Braille "mouse" which allows for the immediate positioning of the Braille display at any point on the computer screen by tracking the user's finger position above the display. Products, such as MasterTOUCH or the SKERF-PAD are combining speech synthesis to tactile arrays which allow access to both the information and spatial arrangement of information on the screen. In using these products, screen is read by a speech synthesizer and controlled by the user running the tip of a finger along raised guidelines on a tablet or pad. Optacon II uses tactile access in combination with optical character recognition. The reading material is scanned and the letters felt on a tactile array. Powerama is an assistive technology for users with low vision who want the additional feature of voice output. It is expected that more innovative combination products will be developed to meet the needs of users with visual impairments and to offer better access to computer technology.

Sample Products

[Collection Table of Contents]

[ Home | Library | Videos | Tour | Spotlight | Workshops | Links ]

This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.