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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Non-optical Devices Video

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Non Optical Devices Video Transcript

Narrator: Non-optical devices help people who are blind or visually impaired to carry out everyday tasks such as reading and writing, more efficiently. These kinds of devices don't enlarge or magnify what the user is viewing but, instead, help them to complete various tasks in different ways. In this video segment, we'll be looking at six kinds of nonoptical devices: Bold and raised lined paper, bold markers, writing guides, desktop and floor reading stands, and supplemental lighting sources.

Bold line paper assists users with writing by enabling them to stay on the lines, while bold markers allow users to write more legibly so that they can read what they've written.

Reading stands enable users to place books and other written materials in an optimum position, such as tilted up several inches or standing upright, which makes reading more comfortable and efficient for them.

Some of these items can be bought at mainstream office supply stores, while others are available only from specialized vendors. For a list of these vendors please see the Assistive Technology section of the AFB web site at www.afb.org. Let's look in more detail at how these items help.

This user is having difficulty seeing the faint blue lines on regular writing paper, making it hard for him to stay on the lines while he writes. This task becomes much easier when he uses paper with bold, black lines that are spaced further apart. Because the user can now see the dark lines more clearly, he can write within them and make his writing more legible.

Some users prefer to take this one step further by using paper that also has a raised line to assist with writing. The raised line gives users tactile feedback when their pen or pencil moves over it, thus helping them to maintain their orientation to each line. In addition, a high-contrast, bold marker will allow users to see more clearly when they need to read and review what they've written.

Another non-optical device that helps people who are blind or visually impaired is a writing guide like the ones shown here. Openings in the plastic guide define the area in which they can write. Writing guides are available for a variety of tasks, such as writing and signing checks and letters, and addressing envelopes.

When reading, many people who are visually impaired need to hold reading material a few inches from their eyes or place it on a surface and bend over to see it. Both these options create undue physical stress in several areas of the upper body. A reading or book stand can assist people who have this problem.

There are several types available. Portable models that are designed to hold individual pieces or paper, or thin magazines, are lightweight and fold up flat for easy carrying. Desktop models are more substantial and can easily hold books, as well as other reading materials. Heavy-duty, floor-standing models are sturdy enough to hold even heavier materials, such as large print books. All of these models allow the user to display reading material at the optimal viewing angle and height.

Other types of non-optical devices that are useful for reading and writing and many other tasks are those that allow the user to control artificial and natural lighting. People who are visually impaired can use blinds, shades, and various window treatments, to control how much natural lighting is allowed to enter the room. These devices assist in two ways. One, they allow the user to adjust the illumination of the objects and materials being viewed. Two, they help the user to control the glare and brightness caused by strong sources of light.

While many people who are visually impaired like natural lighting, others prefer to use artificial lighting. Additional lighting sources, such as table and floor lamps, can provide the light needed to make tasks easier. Incandescent, fluorescent and halogen lights, with dimmer switches that allow the user to control the amount of light emitted, are also helpful to many people who are visually impaired.

Bold markers, bold lined paper, and writing guides cost less than $10 per unit. The cost of reading stands and specialized lighting varies depending on the make and model chosen.

Users can contact these specialized vendors found on the Assistive Technology page of AFB's web site, www.afb.org for additional information on the devices we have shown.

These vendors also provide numerous other non-optical devices that are available to help people who are blind or visually impaired to read and write, and perform other tasks more effectively.

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