• Technology Tools for Children with Low Vision

    Reviewed By Terry L Schwartz MD
    Aug. 04, 2021

    For children who are visually impaired, technology can play a big role in reaching developmental milestones and closing learning gaps. Technology can help babies and toddlers develop language and motor skills, and make friends. It can help older kids access the classroom curriculum and interact with peers.

    People of all ages can benefit from the wide variety and high quality of today's technology tools, devices and apps. Here's a roundup of some top technology resources for children with low vision.

    Disclaimer: These tools are presented for your information only. They are not the only such devices, but are merely representative of the types of devices that are available. These devices are not endorsed by the Academy, as the Academy never endorses products, companies or organizations. Ask your low vision team, including your ophthalmologist, to help identify apps and technologies that might best address your needs.

    Apple and Android tools for children with low vision

    Children often start interacting with smartphones or tablets at an early age. Built-in tools such as large font and high contrast are also available to help children use the device and access the world around them.

    On Apple devices:

    • VoiceOver is a screen reader that provides a description of everything happening on the screen.
    • Siri is a voice recognition system that lets you send messages, place phone calls and more.

    On Android devices:

    • Apps that run on the Android operating system use a built-in screen reader called TalkBack.
    • Android devices also use Google Assistant, a “virtual helper,” powered by artificial intelligence. Google Assistant lets you perform a wide variety of actions on your phone or tablet using voice commands.

    Additional tools compatible with Apple or Android devices:

    • Children who are blind may benefit from assistive technology apps and keyboards that help teach braille and encourage children to use braille for reading and writing.

    Basic tech tools for toddlers and preschoolers with low vision

    • Simple stand (dome) magnifiers for near work and play can help young children zoom in on books and objects up to 10X. Lighted versions of these tools are also available. Monocular handheld telescopes can help children spot objects at a distance.
    • Sensory Magma (iOS, free) – This simple, calming and relaxing visual app can help teach cause and effect. Tap, hold and/or pinch the screen to change the direction, color or size of the lava flow.
    • Fireworks Arcade (Android and iOS, free) – This app can help teach cause and effect and increase visual attention. Tap or drag the screen to create displays of light and sound.
    • Peekaboo Barn Lite (Android and iOS, free) – Explore animals and learn their names and sounds with this interactive learning app.
    • Itsy Bitsy Spider (Android and iOS, free) – A musical, interactive book that teaches children about the environment, nature, animals and counting.
    • Smart Shapes (iOS, free) – This Montessori-inspired game teaches children to distinguish shapes and colors while working with others.
    • AlphaTots Alphabet (Android and iOS, $2.99) – Teaches letters and their sounds with 3D graphics, animation and music.
    • Ballyland Magic (iOS, $3.99) – This app teaches young children essential skills and concepts for using VoiceOver on their Apple device. Using this app, they can learn and practice a number of VoiceOver gestures all while playing a fun game.
    • Tap-n-See Now (iOS, $9.99) – Created specifically for children with cortical visual impairment (CVI), this app helps teach cause and effect through an interactive picture-sound album. Kids learn to track motion and recognize different colors.
    • Dr. Seuss story apps (Android and IOS, $0.99 to $5.99) – Interactive stories that are simple, have bright colors, highlight text as you read and include sound effects.

    Tools for elementary and middle school students with low vision

    • Video magnifiers ($2000+) can improve accessibility to objects and books at home and in the classroom. If a child’s vision is 20/125 or poorer, they can be registered with the American Printing House (APH) and added to the Federal Quota to receive this tool for free. They will also be eligible to get other educational materials they might need in school, all specially designed for their level of visual impairment and developmental stage.
    • Clip-on telescopes ($20+) that attach easily to smartphones and tablet cameras can provide up to 10X or higher magnification with high definition. They are made for photographers but can be helpful tools for children with low vision.
    • Seeing AI (iOS, free) – This app can narrate the world around you. Simply point the phone or iPad camera at a whiteboard, smartboard, worksheet and more and Seeing AI will tell you what is written, out loud. It can help read currency, name colors and even decipher handwritten cursive.
    • Lookout (Android, free) – Provides spoken feedback about things around you. Lookout uses the camera and sensors on the device to recognize text, people and objects.
    • TapTapSee (Android and iOS, free) – Lets you photograph objects and have them identified aloud.
    • KNFB Reader (Android and iOS, $99.99) – This voice-to-text tool lets you take a picture of any text—books, worksheets, chalk board writing—and have it read back to you or converted to braille.
    • Audible (Android and iOS, $14.95 per month plus downloads) – Provides downloadable audiobooks, magazines, newspapers and more. The collection currently includes 200,000+ books.
    • Kindle app (Android, iOS, PC and Mac, free) – Use this e-reader app to download books. Purchase titles from Amazon, or download them from your library app into the Kindle.
    • Bookshare (Android and iOS, $50 per year) – An online library for children (and adults) with low vision. Currently, the Bookshare collection contains nearly 850,000 titles, downloadable in a choice of formats including ebooks, audio, braille, and large font. Membership requires verification of print disability, and includes free downloads.
    • Read2Go (iOS, $19.99) – An accessible ebook reader app that lets you read Bookshare books with ease on the iPad and iPhone. Just find the book you want, download, and start reading. Read2Go lets you customize your reading experience in many different ways.
    • BARD Mobile (Android and iOS, free) – A talking book library that offers access to tens of thousands of titles. You must first enroll in the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress. Note that this program may only be available in the United States.
    • Overdrive (Android and iOS, free) – A service that lets you borrow both audio and text eBooks through your library or school.
    • Notability (iOS, $8.99) – Lets you create multimedia notes with text, sketches and audio. Import or take a picture of a worksheet and complete it with typed text, handwriting, or speech-to-text. Older students can add PDFs and lecture slides, zoom in on text and annotate it. This app facilitates emailing assignments to teachers or uploading them directly to a virtual classroom.
    • Math Robot (iOS, $4.99) – Designed for students who are blind or visually impaired, this app provides problems, drills and practices in a very high contrast format. It is also accessible with VoiceOver.
    • Talking Calculator (iOS, free) and Voice and Talking Calculator (Android, free) – Provide a fully voice-operated calculator that reads numbers, formulas and answers aloud.

    Advanced tech tools for high school and college students with low vision

    • Genius Scan (Android and iOS, free) — A document scanner app. Hover an iPad, tablet or phone above any text, and this app will take a picture and save it as a PDF. You can export the document to Notability.
    • AudioNote (Android and iOS, $12.99) — Take notes with recorded audio. Record a teacher’s lesson/lecture, interview or study session and timestamp it. Insert text, drawings, photos and highlighter notes.
    • Join.Me and TeamViewer Meeting (Android and iOS, free for students, requires school/teacher subscription) — These apps make the teacher’s smartboard accessible. Students can “join” the teacher’s lesson and project it onto their own personal device to follow along.
    • MyScript Calculator (Android and iOS, $2.99) — Turns your tablet or phone into an interactive piece of paper for math calculations. Write in a math problem with your finger or stylus and get the result in real time.