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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Using a Computer with a Visual Impairment: A Beginner's Guide to Computer Accessibility

By Bill Holton

Computer Access for People with Visual Impairments

Findings from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Preliminary Report established that an estimated 20.6 million adult Americans (or nearly 10% of all adult Americans) reported they either "have trouble" seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, or that they are blind or unable to see at all.

Of course if you (or a loved one) have recently experienced profound vision loss, these numbers are little more than mere statistics. We mention them here for one reason: to assure you that you are not alone. Vast resources—human, technical, medical, and rehabilitative—stand ready to assist you in regaining your independence, resuming your career or starting a new one, and, most importantly, increasing your enjoyment of life, friends, and family.

In this section we will focus on the technical resources that are available to those with visual impairments. We’ll begin by describing one of the most profound technological achievements to have benefited sight-impaired individuals: the accessible personal computer.

This guide is organized into two main sections. The first section is for those with new visual impairments who are brand new to computers. There, we talk about all of the ways in which computers are helpful and useful, along with what to consider when purchasing a computer.

The second section is for those with recent visual impairment who already own, and have some experience using, a personal computer. There we discuss the main components of accessibility and lay the groundwork for a productive and happy computing experience.

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