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14 great computing aids for the disabled

Keyboards controlled by eye, PCs operated by light

Getting work done on a computer is easily within reach of the blind and physically disabled thanks to a number of new and updated tools. We've rounded up the 14 best gadgets to improve computing for the disabled.

Up close and personal: ZoomText Magnifier/Reader

For those with poor eyesight, a screen magnifier can bring sentences or even individual letters into focus. Recent versions of Windows include a crude magnifier, but it can't go beyond a 9x zoom, and fonts look pixelated and blocky.

AI Squared's ZoomText Magnifier/Reader can blow text up to 32 times its original size and display it in a variety of ways.
It can also read what it sees - including documents, emails, web pages, application menus and so on - aloud to you with its synthetic speech processor.

The program can even be set to read back characters as they're being typed, for perfect letters or memos.

ZoomText Magnifier/Reader works only with Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7 PCs and costs $600 (£398). There's a 60-day free trial available.

Read it aloud: InfoScan TS Elite and Intel Reader

Screen magnifiers and readers are great when you're using a computer, but doing business also means reading off-screen materials such as memos, receipts and manuals. That's a real challenge for people with failing eyesight.

WizCom Technologies' InfoScan TS Elite scanning pen can help by scanning and storing printed material and reading it back to you.

InfoScan TS glides over the page and can hold up to 500 pages of material internally that can be transferred to a computer via a USB cable for further work or editing.

It has a built-in American Heritage Dictionary and can work with type that's between 6 and 22 points, in English, French, German, Portuguese or Spanish. The pen scanner costs about $150 (£100).

Another product that can help those with visual impairments when they're away from the computer is the Intel Reader.

About the size and weight of a paperback book, this e-reader can enlarge the text on its 4.3in. screen while a synthesised voice reads the material.

The Reader can be loaded with material from a Windows PC or a Linux system (there's no Mac software at the moment) via a USB cable, or just aim the device's 5Mp camera at your document to enlarge and read spreadsheets, memos or pages from a report.

The Intel Reader has an Atom processor, stores up to about 600 pages and runs for about two hours on a charge.

It costs $1,500 (£1,000); a dedicated scanner for capturing large amounts of text is available for an additional $400 (£265).

NEXT PAGE: Braille on the go

  1. From keyboards controlled by the eye to light-operated PCs
  2. Sip and puff input systems
  3. Light-operated PCs
  4. ZoomText magnifier/reader
  5. Braille on the go


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