I Have VI Technology, Now What?

I had the pleasure of presenting at the 2019 DC/MD annual AER conference.  My presentation focused on common issues that TVIs and service providers faced when new VI technology equipment was dropped into their laps by school districts and agencies. We looked at ways to approach the use of iPads, iPhones, refreshable Braille devices, and other tech tools. 

As the attendees waited for the presentation to start, they were encouraged to complete a survey.  The survey results consisted of the following information:

Survey Results

People in attendance and that took the survey

  • 10 TVIs
  • 1 O&M
  • 1 TVI/O&M
  • 1 Assistive Technology Specialist
  • 1 From an agency
  • 1 Special Ed. Teacher taking TVI classes
  • 1 Vocational Evaluator

Devices for Personal use

  • iPhone, laptop, ipad
  • Laptop, cell phone
  • iPad, iPhone, MAC, P.C., Smart Watch
  • Work and home laptop, Chromebook
  • Android Smart phone, computers
  • Laptop
  • iPhone, HP Elitebook, Macbook
  • Laptop, iPad
  • Phone, low tech (maps, monocular). Tap Tap see, Google Maps, gps, iPad
  • iPhone, laptop, ipad
  • Laptop, iPad, iPhone
  • iPad
  • HP device, iphone

Devices that their students or clients use

  • iPhone, laptop, ipad
  • Computer
  • iPads, Refreshable braille, Android Smartphone, iPhone
  • Laptops
  • Smart phones, computers, voice recorder to text, smart pen
  • Electronic magnifiers
  • Braille note touch, JAWS, talking calculators, embosser, PIAF machine
  • Refreshable BrailleSense, MattConnect, VisioBook, laptop with JAWS, Apex
  • Phone camera
  • iPads, MATT Connect
  • iPad, note takers, phones, laptops,
  • Braille Index D embossed, Braille Note Touch, talking TI 84 plus

Familiarity with using iPads in general

(scale from lowest to highest level of proficiency 1-5)

  • 3 people rated themselves a 2
  • 5 people rated themselves a 3
  • 4 people rated themselves a 4
  • 4 people rated themselves a 5

When asked about issues related to using iPads, they reported

  • Best for elementary students
  • Not having one
  • Learning New Accessibility features when they come out.
  • Access
  • None
  • Don't use them
  • N/A
  • Voice over with some apps
  • New apps for VI students

When asked about their familiarity with using Refreshable Braille devices

(scale from lowest to highest level of proficiency 1-5)

  • 1 person rated himself/herself a 1
  • 6 people rated themselves a 2
  • 8 people rated themselves a 3
  • 1 person rated himself/herself a 5

When asked about issues related to using Refreshable Braille devices they reported the following

  • Don’t use one
  • Not trained. Commands for using them and RB devices vs. Note Takers
  • connecting them to student laptops (HP revolve) to enhance independence
  • Everything
  • Updated equipment use
  • JAWS...internet access for students

When asked about their familiarity with using Accessibility on laptops

(scale from lowest to highest level of proficiency 1-5)

  • 1 person rated himself/herself a 2
  • 12 people rated themselves a 3
  • 3 people rated themselves a 4

When asked about their familiarity with using Laptops for Accessibility

  • None
  • JAWS
  • Learning the accessibility features to teach my students. Voice output
  • Knowing what's available
  • connecting them to braille note touch, getting tech people to our schools to help connect
  • My students do what they already know with laptops
  • Remembering hot keys , connecting laptops to overhead presentations

When asked about issues related to getting properly trained to use VI Technology

  • Time
  • Not enough instructors
  • No one in the county that is an expert at using the devices. We try our best to help one another.
  • Knowing how/ what resources
  • Can usually get assistance when I use something new
  • not enough time
  • Not a lot of training
  • Helping parents
  • Need re training

Additional Discussions

The responses created a good dialog which also highlighted other technologies that were being used in different settings.  The Attendees shared the following additional information:

Popular Technology that they use

  • iPad/iPhone/Mac
  • Refreshable Braille
  • AWS with Google Drive
  • Electronic magnifiers (Matt Connect)
  • Wearables - Orcam
  • Screen sharing 
  • Talking calculators

Barriers to accessing technology

  • Not Sure what barriers exist
  • School firewalls
  • Connecting to school Wi-Fi


  • Training

Helpful Resources shared with the group

  • Apple iPad
  • Flying Blind “Top Tech Tidbits”
  • O6 Remote - can be used with iOS Device to move through menus and select items instead of gestures (Best Buy $99) Works for student who have trouble remembering all the gestures.

Having completed the survey and our discussion regarding the results of the survey, we moved on to looking at ways to become familiar with technology for individuals with vision impairments. We also looked at resources for learning how to use VI technology as professionals, and how to teach the use of the technology to VI students and clients. 

The first step to a solution that I shared with them was the need to assess a student or client’s technology needs.  I shared the link to the Path to Technology site that contains various types of assessment resources for VI professionals to use.

Additional Solutions

When we discussed additional solutions, I shared the following resources with the attendees:



Online Guides



Hands-On Activities

Practice VO gestures on an iPhone or iPad:  

Practice VO on  Mac:  How to turn on VO on Mac

The entire conference was full of great information and resources!  It was such a good opportunity to network with other VI professionals, share ideas and resources, as well as catch up with familiar faces!

Feel free to leave additional VI technology solutions and resources in the comments below!

If you have a VI tech question, leave it below and as readers of this blog, we can come together to find solutions!  

Collage of VI Tech

Read more about: Assistive Technology