Optimal computer setup for the blind and low vision [2023]

August 24, 2023
"Optimal computer setup for the Blind and Low Vision". Image shows a man, smiling , using Envision Glasses

It is undeniable the important role technology plays in dismantling obstacles and promoting inclusivity among individuals who are differently abled. Specifically, for those who are blind or have low vision, computers hold transformative potential, facilitating their connection to the digital realm, enabling information access, and empowering the pursuit of personal and professional aspirations. Yet, the journey toward a genuinely accessible and empowering computer configuration demands a thoughtful assessment of hardware components that cater to distinct needs.

This blog post delves into the world of accessible computing for people who are blind or have low vision, highlighting the essential hardware requirements that contribute to enhanced accessibility and productivity. From screen reader software to braille displays, keyboards with tactile markers to audio output devices, each element serves a crucial role in creating an inclusive workstation.

Presented below is an list of the essential hardware requirements for a fully functional computer setup:

Computer: Any standard desktop or laptop computer can be utilized, ensuring it meets the minimum system requirements for the intended operating system and software.

Screen Reader Software: Crucial for people who are blind or have low vision, screen reader software converts on-screen text and visual elements into synthesized speech or braille output. Popular options include JAWS (Job Access With Speech), NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access), and VoiceOver (pre-installed on Apple devices).

Braille Display: A hardware device that converts digital text into braille characters, enabling blind individuals to read through touch. It typically consists of a series of dynamic braille cells that raise and lower according to the displayed text.

Keyboard: Generally, a standard keyboard is used for input. However, some blind users may prefer keyboards with specific features, such as larger keys, high-contrast labeling, or specialized layouts.

Tactile Markers: These small adhesive or magnetic bumps or dots can be placed on the keyboard to help blind individuals locate specific keys by touch, such as the home row or function keys.

Headphones or Speakers: An audio output device is required to listen to the synthesized speech provided by the screen reader software.

Microphone: A microphone can be utilized for voice commands, dictation, or voice recognition software.

Refreshable Braille Notetaker: Although not essential, a portable device combining a braille display with additional functionalities, such as note-taking, document reading, and navigation, can be used alongside a computer to enhance flexibility.

Envision Glasses:  Envision Glasses are one of the most innovative AI powered smart glasses for those who are blind or low-vision. Among its many features, the most widely used are its text to speech capabilities which allow users to read mail, signboards, recipes and basically any text they might come across. To learn more about the Envision Glasses and explore all its features click here.

Now that we have explored the wide range of devices available for people who are blind to create an efficient and accessible workstation, let's delve into the different budget ranges associated with completing the setup. It's important to note that the prices mentioned here are based on new hardware. However, if you consider purchasing second-hand devices, the overall cost may be significantly lower, offering potential savings. 

It's crucial to keep in mind that the purpose of this article is to provide a general idea of the expenses involved in setting up a computer workstation for people who are blind or have low vision. The actual amount you spend will depend on several factors, such as the specific nature of your work, the tasks you need to perform, and the devices necessary to meet those requirements. 

Understanding your specific needs is vital to tailor the setup accordingly. For instance, if your work involves extensive braille reading and tactile input, investing in a high-quality braille display with a larger number of cells may be beneficial. On the other hand, if your tasks primarily involve screen reading and audio output, focusing on a reliable computer system and screen reader software might take priority.

By considering both the recommended devices mentioned earlier and your individual requirements, you can make informed decisions about the equipment that best suits your needs within your chosen budget range. Additionally, keep in mind that technological advancements and fluctuating market prices may also influence the final cost of your setup.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a computer setup that empowers people who are blind to work efficiently, comfortably, and independently. By considering your specific requirements and finding the right balance between functionality and budget, you can create a personalized workstation that enhances your productivity and overall accessibility.

Low Budget Setup:

- Computer: $300 - $500

- Screen Reader Software: Free (NVDA or VoiceOver)

Windows: NVDA 

Apple: Default VoiceOver Screen Reader

LinuxOS: Orca

- Braille Display: $300 - $500

- Keyboard: $20 - $50

- Headphones or Speakers: $10 - $30

-Envision Glasses Read Edition: $1,899

Medium Budget Setup:

- Computer: $600 - $900

- Screen Reader Software: $900 - $1,200 (JAWS license or subscription)

- Braille Display: $1,000 - $3,000

- Keyboard: $50 - $100

- Headphones or Speakers: $30 - $70

- Envision Glasses Home Edition: $2,499

Full Budget Setup:

- Computer: $1,500 - $3,000

- Screen Reader Software: $900 - $1,200 (JAWS license or subscription)

- Braille Display: $3000-$12000 (depending on the number of cells)

- Keyboard: $100 - $200

- Headphones or Speakers: $70 - $250

- Envision Glasses Professional Edition: $3,499

Please note that these prices are approximate and can vary depending on factors such as brand, model, features, and availability. It's always a good idea to research current prices from various sources, including official manufacturer websites and authorized resellers, to get the most accurate and up-to-date pricing information.

If you're an employer seeking to enhance accessibility for your team, we encourage you to explore Envision's enterprise solution. Our Envision Glasses are already making a positive impact on accessibility for employees at Google, ABN Amro, Impact Sight, and the Municipality of Hague. Discover more about our enterprise offering by clicking here.