Types of assistive technology and technology tips

  • Video magnifier – incorporates camera to capture live whiteboard information and relay to student’s laptop or tablet. Can also be used to magnify text in books.
  • Laptops and desktop computers/Braillenotes.
  • Tablets, iPads and ereaders.
  • Matt screen cuts down glare.
  • Screen magnifiers – SuperNova, Zoomtext, MAGic.
  • Screen readers – Jaws, Window-Eyes, SuperNova, Zoomtext.
  • Speech recognition software – Dragon.
  • iPad speech to type feature (microphone on keyboard).
  • Handheld electronic magnifiers – freeze frame function, switch between colour, black & white, rechargeable batteries.
  • Apps to live link whiteboard to laptop, tablet or iPad in class (details below).
  • Accessibility functions on laptops & iPads
  • It is possible to customise every setting within the window operating platform and MS Office.
  • Specialist screen readers.
  • Speech to text software / headsets.
  • Enlarged cursor, pointer – ACE Centre, Biggy.
  • Enlarged icons.

Guide Dogs

Guide Dogs  has an Access Technology team which gives advice on choosing the most appropriate technology to help children and young people with a vision impairment study and play.  We work across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We also offer a grants programme that allows families to apply for recommended items they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. Download this document about the Grant Criteria for more info.

Assistive or adaptive technology and sensory toys can make all the difference to how a child with sight loss learns and plays. There are so many options – including computer equipment and software, Braille devices, screen readers and magnifiers, multi-sensory toys, resonance boards and more. Finding the right equipment for a child or young person is vital, but can be an overwhelming task.

We help families to choose the best possible devices and software to meet a blind child’s individual needs at home and at school.

Our advice is independent and unbiased, as we don’t sell any equipment. We work with other agencies, suppliers and organisations to make sure we give the most relevant information on the latest accessible technology.

RNIB guide to assistive technology

Touch typing

Touch typing is a very valuable skill for a student with Nystagmus. It is more efficient and less tiring than writing, helping to reduce the fatigue effects of having Nystagmus. It promotes better posture, allows student to change font size and is easier to read than handwriting.

  • Aim for student to be a competent touch typist by end of Year 6.
  • Request advice from QTVI on appropriate touch typing programmes & length of sessions.
  • 10 minutes every school day has been suggested as appropriate.
  • Incorporate touch typing into school timetable.
  • Focus on accuracy not speed as speed will follow.
  • Cover hands during touch typing sessions.
  • Appropriately sized bumpons stuck onto keyboard can be useful. (http://shop.rnib.org.uk/home-and-leisure/labelling/bumpons-and-tactimark/round-orange-flat-head-bumpons.html)
  • Many free touch typing programmes are available online or on CD. The below is not an exhaustive list and does not imply endorsement.

English Type

Commercial product



Doorway online


2Simple 2Type

Commercial product for schools

Free Apps for whiteboard access

The following apps are commonly used by schools to link a classroom whiteboard to a laptop, tablet or iPad.

  • me
  • Impero
  • Splash top
  • Read to go
  • Team viewerQAC Sight Village Exhibition

This is an event for people who are blind or partially-sighted, for professionals supporting and advising VIPs and for all businesses and other organisations wishing better to meet the needs of their vision impaired customers.

QAC Sight Village has been described as “the premier exhibition for blind and partially-sighted people in the UK” and as ”the country’s leading expo of access tech solutions”.

Each July thousands of visitors travel to Birmingham to find out at first hand the latest technology, products and support services available to people who are blind or partially-sighted. Our exhibitors are commercial companies and voluntary organisations from throughout the world.

In addition to the main show in Birmingham, we host a number of roadshow events in cities such as London, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Admission is free.

Making interactive whiteboards accessible

Interactive whiteboards 101: screen sharing with learners who have vision impairment, an article by RNIB, post date: Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Michael Ritson, tech wizard and QTVI from Oldham, talks about screen sharing software and offers advice for beginners.

The interactive whiteboard, a piece of technology born in the world of business has now become a standard fixture in most of our classrooms. This advance in technology has made it possible for many teachers to turn the dullest topic into a multimedia extravaganza of engagement. But a learner with low vision is still faced with similar problems to learners of the past who struggled to see the chalkboard while taking an active part in the lesson.

However, many of these challenges can be overcome if the interactive whiteboard is used with screen sharing software. This is generally a pair of programs or apps which work together (when linked with a code) to transmit content on the whiteboard from the teacher’s computer directly to the pupil’s laptop or tablet via internet or Wi-Fi. It effectively gives the pupil a remote monitor that they can use to zoom in and out.

Although screen sharing software was originally intended to allow collaboration between offices across the world, it can also offer immediate access benefits to learners who have vision impairment (VI) within the classroom.

The learner is instantly freed from being positioned at the front of the classroom or at the teacher’s computer. And as a result, they can more easily engage in group work with their own accessible version of what the rest of the class can see on the board.

What IT equipment do I need?

There is an ever expanding galaxy of combinations of what IT specialists like to call “solutions” in use within classrooms: interactive whiteboards, projectors, touchscreen monitors, plasma displays and so on (and no guarantees that the same set up will even be found in each classroom in the same school!). Most classrooms have the teacher’s internet-connected computer feeding a projector or large screen of some kind, and most schools have a Wi-Fi network. This is the essential list of ingredients necessary to use screen sharing software, though the exact recipe for success will depend on the available hardware, the school network and often the most important – developing a good working relationship with the IT technician!

Which screen sharing software should I try?

There are a lot of options out there, from the very popular (and free – for non-commercial use) TeamViewer and join.me, to paid for programs and apps such as ZoomSplashtopDoceriMikogo and VNC Viewer (which often provide a free or trial option). Many schools also use remote administration software that can provide a screen sharing service, such as Impero. A quick internet search for “screen sharing” or “meeting software” will show the many options available – all of which will have installation and usage guides and videos to help you get going.

In Oldham, we tend to try the free versions of join.me or TeamViewer first, for reasons of ease of use and compatibility. They both work on and between Windows or Mac computers, and have free to download iOS and Android apps. Only on rare occasions do the security settings of school networks need a little adjustment to let either of them make a connection. The benefits to both our pupil’s social and emotional wellbeing as well as their level of curriculum access and engagement from using screen sharing in school is probably best expressed in their own words:

A Year 6 child who is registered severely sight impaired said: “I like using TeamViewer because it means I can sit anywhere in the class to do my work. Before, the groups came to me and I never moved places, but now I can be in different groups or with my friends because I don’t have to sit right at the front to see what’s on the big screen.”

A Year 2 child who is registered sight impaired said: “I like to use join.me on my iPad in assembly because I can sit with my class and see everything they can see at the front of the hall.”

Top tips for screen sharing

  • Learners are able to control and adjust the screen angle, contrast, colour and magnification settings on their own device, as well as pause when needed. And because the focussing distance is drastically cut down, this can be a real help in reducing visual fatigue.
  • The teacher has the ability to “pause the meeting”, which freezes the pupil’s screen. This is great for when the teacher may not want the pupil to see their own screen during lessons. When the teacher “ends the meeting”, this closes the connection to the pupil’s screen.
  • Occasionally the connection can slow or drop out completely depending on the speed and connection quality of the school Wi-Fi. If this happens, it may be necessary for the teacher to restart the meeting from their screen sharing control panel and the pupil will need to input the meeting code again as a new one is generated each time a screen sharing session is hosted.
  • IT technicians can understandably be nervous about the possibility of the pupil being able to control the teacher’s laptop. The answer to this is that the apps the children use to connect are “meeting” or “viewer” apps, and if the teacher is hosting a meeting rather than allowing remote control, the connection is strictly one way. This means that the pupil’s screen can only zoom or screenshot the displayed content and there is no chance of anyone being able to wreak havoc with the teacher’s computer or draw anything controversial on the board behind them!

Although screen sharing can undoubtedly be a fantastic way to enhance access to the interactive whiteboard for learners who have vision impairment, it is not without its problems. Researching the ever-expanding variety of options and experimenting with free versions is really important. A universal “best choice for VI” in every situation and each setting has yet to emerge – surely it will be along soon!

Read this RNIB article online here.