The World Wide Web is often considered the "great equalizer" for a large number of people. A lot of groups have gained more visibility due to the Internet. Unfortunately, however, those who are blind or have poor vision often have difficulty using the Web, for obvious and some not-so obvious reasons. Fortunately, there are a lot of software solutions for people with vision impairment, but teachers, educators, and parents need to be aware of the difficulty of using and getting used to this software.

What does "legally blind" mean?
The first step in helping someone with a vision impairment is to find out the level and degree of the disability. "Low vision" refers to a condition with a measurable visual acuity of 20/70 or less and is usually uncorrectable. Someone who is legally blind has an acuity of 20/200 at best, accompanied by a phenomenon known as tunnel vision, which is a visual field of 20 degrees or less. Total blindness, which is fairly rare (about 15% of all blind people), is very severe, and there is little to no light perception. Those who are totally blind have fewer software options than those who have low vision, so knowing the level of blindness is very important.

How can one who is blind use a computer?
Depending on the degree, type, and severity of the vision impairment, different choices are available for surfing the Web and using a computer. Usually, people do not use a mouse, just a keyboard or Braille keyboard, and site content is read aloud by a software program. Those who have some light sensitivity and who can read large text often use Internet plugins that create extra-large buttons and zoom in a great deal. Also, some people with vision impairment use a highlight contrast feature to change the color of text so it can be more easily read. If the person in question is not familiar with using a keyboard or Braille keyboard, speech-to-text programs are occasionally used.
Article written by Lexi Westingate
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