The most commonly thought of sensory impairments are to sight and hearing. Impairment to sight can vary from simple problems that can be solved with glasses and contact lenses, to complete loss of sight which cannot be corrected. There are ICT solutions that can help those with partial to complete sight loss.
For those who can read Braille there are a number of PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) type devices that have a Braille keyboard and touch display. These devices run software such as a notetaker, address book, calculator, SMS messages and they can even be set up as mobile phones.
Visually impaired people often have difficulty working with paper money; it is difficult to tell a £10 note from a £20 note if you cannot see it. There are small devices that can check bank notes and speak their value.
With the now near-essential use of computers in most walks of life, visually impaired people need to be able to use computers. Most software is designed to be seen on a monitor rather than heard but specialist software has been created to speak written text for the visually impaired person.
- Electronic readers use optical character recognition technology to scan the information on a page and read it aloud.
- A computer with a speech synthesiser can recite menus, on-screen text and entries from the keyboard to keep the user informed.
- A talking calculator also uses synthesised speech to report the calculations it is performing.
Hearing-impaired people often have difficulty communicating by telephone and various types of phone have been designed to help them. Features include:
- amplifying the sound
- working properly with hearing aids
- bright flashing lights and
- vibrating extensions to signal that someone is ringing
- video facilities to help them to communicate using sign language
A typewriter telephone (TTY) relays calls over phone lines like a fax. It can only receive information from another TTY.
A portable voice carry over (VCO) device can be used by someone who can speak, but has trouble hearing. The VCO attaches to the earpiece of a phone and converts incoming TTY transmissions into displayed text.
Dogs can be used also to help hearing impaired people just as they can for sight impairment. A hearing dog will alert its master with a nudge when a telephone rings or a smoke detectors goes off; it can also lead them to the source of the sound
Doorbells, telephones, smoke detectors, alarm clocks can all be converted to be used by hearing impaired people using flashing lights, amplified sound and vibration. It is even possible to combine all these alerts within one small portable device.