A reader has a question about tablet options for the visually impaired. She writes: “Our Lions Club president is nearly blind (can see light and dark only). He really needs to get into the digital world so he can be on a level playing field with the organization. He also volunteers at a local hospital, volunteers at blood drives, food bank volunteer. He really needs a tablet, our local blind lions club has tried to give him help but I think he’s afraid of the technology. He uses his home phone however to play games and communicate on a web with other visually impaired. The iPhone is what has been suggested, but it is too expensive. Is there a cheaper tablet that will do what he needs (receive email, send email) text etc.?”
I have good news for you. If an iPhone or iPad is out of your price range, there are less expensive Android and Windows tablets that should work just fine.
I’m not clear if he already owns a smartphone or not. (you said that he uses it for playing games) If he already has a smartphone, that device can be used for sending and receiving e-mail as well as texts and visiting the web. After all, a smartphone is really just a small tablet that makes phones calls.
All Android phones and tablets have multiple accessibility options available. If you go to settings and tap accessibility.
You’ll get see a menu with categories for Vision, Hearing and Dexterity.
Under Vision you can turn on features like TalkBack. When turned on it describes what you’ve touched, selected and activated.
Text-to-speech options allow you to dictate e-mails and messages. Using Google now, you can ask questions and open apps.
You can also find accessibility apps for the visually impaired int he Google Play store that can be downloaded onto any Android device. Given the Lions Club history of working with the visually impaired, I wouldn’t be surprised if the organization might have some suggestions as to which apps are best.
You should be able to find a decent Android tablet for under $100 and possibly for as low as $50. A Windows 10 tablet is also a great choice. There are an amazing variety of accessibility features in Windows 10, including the able voice assistant Cortana. You can find decent tablets for less than a hundred and VERY good ones for around $200.
If your friend is already using a smartphone, it may be easier to find him a tablet that uses the same operating system. That way, he’ll already have a degree of familiarity with the device. It he happens to have an iPhone, you could consider a less expensive iPad mini or perhaps a refurbished model.
Now I’m going to turn to our readers. Those of you with vision issues, I’d like to know which tablet and apps you use and what you recommend for someone with visual impairments who is new to tablets. Let us know in the comments.