Common Access Technology and Devices Your Match May Use

Over the past five to ten years there has been an explosion of technology that is designed directly or indirectly for individuals with vision loss. It is impossible to provide a comprehensive list of all the applications (apps) and devices. However, here are a handful of options that MABVI staff have found to be helpful for our program participants.

First, some helpful terminology:


This refers to access tech functions that are built into the device. For example, the iPhones come with built-in magnification options. Thankfully, more devices are proving these native options so users do not have to download separate apps.

Handheld Devices

Commonly referred to as phones or tablets that connect to the internet and/or data plan such as iPhones or Kindles.


Devices that only provide magnification (making things larger) and/or text improvements (such as contrast).

Commonly Used Access Tech Devices

Ruby and Pebble are smaller handheld devices that improve magnification. They are usually outfitted with a camera similar to a cell phone and you hold the camera above print material. The text either appears on the small screen or is read aloud.

A CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) or as a Video Magnifier, CCTV magnifiers provide low vision aid for a full range of visual needs. A CCTV is usually a large monitor, similar to a TV, with a camera on the underside. Individuals slide print material underneath and the text appears on the screen, which you can magnify, change font color, and background contrast.

Common Technology

VoiceOver is the free, built-in screen reader available on many handheld devices. Unlike traditional screen readers for Windows, VoiceOver is part of the operating system itself and not a “bolt on” software package installed after the fact. VoiceOver provides speech, output and screen magnification for the blind or low vision user, and refreshable Braille displays can be connected and used as well. The user has full keyboard control over their Mac, and can utilize their computer without any assistance. VoiceOver is easily customizable by the user, and one has access to many features and functions that can be turned on or off, such as sound alerts and verbosity settings.

Descriptive Video Service (DVS)

– Information adapted from the WGBH website 

Descriptive Video Service (DVS) makes visual media accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired by providing descriptive narration of key visual elements in programs.

On your TV, if you hear an extra voice describing scenes, then you have activated the SAP (Secondary Audio Program) function of your television or digital converter box. The SAP allows broadcasters to transmit additional audio services like DVS. On
some programs, a Spanish language track is broadcast over the SAP. To turn off the SAP and return to normal broadcast audio, look for a button on your remote control labeled “Audio,” “SAP,” or “MTS,” and cycle through by repeatedly pressing the button
until normal audio is restored. In some cases, the SAP is accessed through an on-screen menu.

Because each television or digital converter box implements the SAP differently, we recommend referencing your owner’s manual by looking in the index under “SAP” or “Secondary Audio Program” for instructions on how to enable/disable its function.

Has your match mentioned they are interested in helpful devices and low vision aids? The organizations below specialize in products designed specifically for people who are blind and low vision.

  • The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind provides AT devices and living services for people who are legally blind and registered with MCB free of charge.
  • Maxiaids specializes in devices for those with visually impairments and hearing loss.
  • The Carroll Center Store, through the Carroll Center for the Blind, specializes in products for low vision and blindness.
  • Independent Living Aids provides low visions aids, tools, and technology for the blind and visually impaired.
  • LS&S specializes in products for the blind, visually impaired, deaf, and hard of hearing.
  • Blind Mice Mega Mall is designed for use with screen reader and low vision software for visually impaired shoppers. Each store is an independent business owned and managed by a member of the Blind/Low Vision Community.
  • Mitsy Kit hand sewing and crafting kits make creativity accessible for the blind, elderly, disabled and all using our patented, tactile guided system.
  • Elegant Insights provides beautiful jewelry & accessories specifically designed for the vision impaired.
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