A Guide to More Independence for the Visually Impaired

2023-11-19 | By Justin Lubomirsky

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Navigate Life Better: Top Independence Strategies for the Blind

Living with visual impairment poses numerous challenges, but it doesn't mean independence is out of reach. With modern technology and support systems, visually impaired individuals can enjoy a high level of autonomy in their daily lives. 

This article explores a number of smart solutions that empower those with visual impairments to navigate the world with confidence and self-reliance.

Understanding Visual Impairment

Visual impairment can range from partial vision loss to total blindness, and each individual's experience is unique. It's crucial to understand this spectrum because it influences the type of aids and solutions that can best support an individual's independence.

Challenges Faced by Visually Impaired Individuals

Daily tasks like reading mail, selecting clothes, or moving around can be daunting without the right tools and support. Identifying these challenges is the first step in overcoming them.

The Role of Technology in Aiding Independence

Advancements in technology have been game-changers for the visually impaired community. Let's delve into how tech is making a difference.

Mobile Technology and Apps


Apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps have special features that cater to the visually impaired, making getting around simpler and safer.

Reading Assistance

Screen reader apps are essential tools for individuals with visual impairments or reading difficulties, enabling them to listen to written content. These applications convert everything from books to bills into audible speech, thereby making a wide range of textual material accessible.

One screen reader that stands out in its field is the OrCam Read 3. This advanced device takes reading assistance to the next level by combining the versatility of screen reader apps with the convenience of portability. Unlike traditional screen readers that are software-based, OrCam Read 3 is a handheld device that users can point at text, whether printed or digital, to have it read aloud to them.

With the smart integration of AI, the OrCam Read 3 can accurately interpret a variety of fonts and layouts, even reading text from screens, which can be challenging for some software screen readers. Its precision allows for a seamless reading experience that is as close to natural as possible, which is a significant advantage for users who rely on reading tools for understanding and interacting with the world around them.

For individuals who are visually impaired, dyslexic, or have other reading difficulties, tools like OrCam Read 3 offer a degree of freedom and independence that traditional reading methods cannot. By providing quick, reliable, and intuitive access to printed information, OrCam Read 3 helps bridge the gap between the desire for knowledge and the ability to attain it.

Home Automation Solutions

Voice-Activated Devices

Voice-activated assistants can control various aspects of the home environment, providing a hands-free way to operate lights, temperature, and more.

Voice-activated devices have revolutionized the way individuals with visual impairments interact with their home environment. These intelligent assistants provide a hands-free method to control various aspects of their living space, such as lights, temperature, entertainment systems, and more, all with simple voice commands.

In addition to these smart home controls, the realm of voice-activated technology extends to reading devices as well. An outstanding example of this is the OrCam Read 3, which is designed to bring the printed page to life with just a simple vocal prompt. By using the voice command "Hey OrCam," users can activate the device to read aloud from any printed text or digital screen in front of them. This can include books, newspapers, menus, and even text on a computer or smartphone screen.

The OrCam Read 3 harnesses advanced AI technology to provide an intuitive reading experience for users, particularly beneficial for those with reading difficulties such as dyslexia or those who tire easily from reading large amounts of text. This device exemplifies how voice-activated technology can provide not only convenience but also greater accessibility and independence for individuals with visual impairments or reading challenges.

Voice-activated devices like the OrCam Read 3 emphasize the importance of accessibility in technology design, offering innovative solutions that enable users to engage with written content in a way that is most comfortable and efficient for them. Through the power of voice, these devices are unlocking new potential for autonomy and accessibility in everyday life.

Smart Home Gadgets

Smart gadgets, such as doorbell cameras and thermostats, enhance security and comfort by providing control and feedback through audio cues.

Wearable Technology

Smart Glasses

Smart glasses are transformative for individuals with visual impairments, serving as a digital intermediary that can provide audio descriptions of the user’s surroundings. This technology bridges the gap between perception and reality, offering a new level of independence and interaction with the environment.

One exemplary innovation in this field is the OrCam MyEye, a revolutionary device that attaches to the frame of a user’s glasses. The "What's in Front of Me?" feature of OrCam MyEye enables users to receive real-time audio descriptions of objects, people, and text within their environment. This feature is particularly useful in unfamiliar settings, where identifying immediate obstacles, signage, or items of interest can be challenging.

By simply pointing to a product, signage, or object, users activate the device to speak out detailed information about what is in front of them. Whether it's reading a menu at a restaurant, recognizing a street sign, or identifying a new acquaintance's face, OrCam MyEye empowers users to interact more confidently and effectively with their surroundings.

Smart glasses with such capabilities are more than just assistive devices; they are an extension of the senses, providing a richer understanding of the visual world through enhanced auditory feedback. By integrating cutting-edge AI technology, devices like OrCam MyEye are setting a new standard for what assistive technology can achieve, fostering greater autonomy and engagement for visually impaired individuals in their daily lives.

Fitness Trackers

Fitness trackers with auditory feedback encourage a healthy lifestyle and independence in exercise routines.

Non-Technical Aids for Independence

Beyond technology, there are traditional tools and methods that remain fundamental for daily independence.

Braille and Tactile Solutions


Tactile signs in public spaces provide necessary orientation information for the visually impaired.


Braille books and documents keep the world of literature open to those who read by touch. They offer a tactile gateway to worlds of imagination, learning, and information, ensuring inclusivity in the realm of reading. However, the reality is that not all published materials are readily available in Braille, given the specialized production process and limited demand for certain texts.

In instances where Braille versions are not available, technology steps in to bridge the gap. Screen readers are an exceptional alternative, granting access to the same rich narratives and educational content through auditory means. For individuals with visual impairments seeking a seamless transition from touch to sound, the OrCam Read 3 is a cutting-edge solution. Harnessing the power of AI technology, this innovative device scans, reads, and vocalizes text from any printed surface or digital screen, thus expanding the accessibility of literature far beyond the scope of Braille.

By providing the means to enjoy books, newspapers, magazines, and even online articles, screen readers like OrCam Read 3 ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the joy and knowledge literature offers. The transition from tactile reading to listening is not just about accessibility; it's about continuity in the lifelong journey of learning, exploring, and enjoying the endless universe of written content.

Orientation and Mobility Training

Professional training teaches individuals how to navigate spaces safely and confidently, using canes, guide dogs, and other techniques.

Community and Support Systems for Visually Impaired People

Community and Support Systems

A supportive community plays a vital role in the independence of visually impaired individuals.

Support Groups and Resources

Peer support groups and access to resources can greatly assist individuals in overcoming day-to-day challenges.

Here are a few peer support groups in the US that provide valuable resources and support for individuals with visual impairments:

  1. American Council of the Blind (ACB)

    • Website: ACB

    • Description: ACB offers support, advocacy, and resources for individuals with visual impairments, including peer support groups at the local and national levels.

  2. National Federation of the Blind (NFB)

    • Website: NFB

    • Description: NFB is a nationwide organization that promotes independence and equal opportunities for blind individuals. They offer support groups, mentoring programs, and various resources.

  3. VisionServe Alliance

    • Website: VisionServe Alliance

    • Description: VisionServe Alliance is a network of nonprofit organizations serving individuals with visual impairments. They provide support and resources, and their website has a directory to locate member organizations.

  4. Hadley Community Connections

    • Website: Hadley Community Connections

    • Description: Hadley offers a platform for visually impaired individuals to connect with each other through virtual peer support groups, discussion forums, and social events.

These are just a few examples of peer support groups in the US. It's important to note that local cities or regions may have additional support groups tailored to specific areas. For more localized options, reaching out to local rehabilitation centers or contacting state visual impairment agencies can provide further information.

Educational Programs and Employment

Programs designed to educate and integrate visually impaired individuals into the workforce are crucial for fostering independence and self-sufficiency. They play a pivotal role in providing the necessary skills and confidence for visually impaired individuals to thrive in various professional settings. The following are some highly recommended programs that cater to this need:

  • National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Training Centers: These centers offer comprehensive programs that teach skills such as Braille, assistive technology, cane travel, and independent living, with the aim of improving employment outcomes.

  • Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Hadley offers distance education courses that are useful for personal advancement as well as professional development. Courses cover a wide range of subjects from business and family life to technology and braille.

  • American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) CareerConnect: An online resource providing career exploration, job seeking skills, and job retention resources for people who are blind or visually impaired. It also offers a mentoring program that connects job seekers with visually impaired professionals.

  • State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies: VR programs assist individuals with disabilities in preparing for, obtaining, retaining, or advancing in employment. Services are tailored to individual needs and may include vocational training, college education, and on-the-job training among others.

  • Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASB): ASB provides a variety of programs including computer training, employment readiness, and life skills development, all designed to enhance independence and employment prospects.

  • The Chicago Lighthouse: They offer programs that include education, employment services, and technology training specifically tailored to those with visual impairments, ensuring they have the skills required for today's job market.

  • Lighthouse Guild: The guild provides vocational services, including career assessment, training, placement, and on-the-job support, making the workplace more accessible for people with visual impairments.

Educational programs are complemented by employment services that facilitate practical application of learned skills in real-world job environments. With the support of these programs, visually impaired individuals can attain educational qualifications, learn new job skills, adapt existing ones, and gain valuable employment experience leading to rewarding careers.

By leveraging such comprehensive resources, visually impaired individuals can navigate their educational and career paths with greater autonomy, contributing meaningfully to the workforce and society at large.

Legal Rights and Advocacy

Being aware of one's rights is empowering and ensures equal opportunities and access to necessary resources.

Accessibility Laws

Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate reasonable accommodations, promoting independence and equal access.

Advocacy Groups and Their Role

Organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind advocate for the rights and interests of visually impaired individuals.

Preparing for Independence

Achieving independence involves learning specific skills and adapting to one's environment.

Training and Adaptive Techniques

Skills training and adaptive techniques are essential for individuals with visual impairments to perform tasks differently and efficiently. Such training ensures that the loss of sight does not equate to a loss of independence or the ability to engage in various life activities. Here are several examples of essential skills and courses that facilitate adaptation and enhance proficiency:

  • Orientation and Mobility Training: Courses in this area teach individuals how to navigate safely and confidently in both familiar and unfamiliar environments. This includes learning how to use a white cane, understanding traffic patterns, and using public transportation.

  • Technology Training: As technology continues to advance, training in assistive technology becomes crucial. Courses in this field include learning to operate devices like the OrCam MyEye, which helps visually impaired users identify objects and text in their environment, or becoming proficient with screen reading software and braille displays for personal computing.

  • Daily Living Skills: These practical courses cover essential day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning, personal grooming, and money management using adaptive techniques and tools tailored for those with limited or no vision.

  • Braille Literacy: Learning Braille is fundamental for accessing written material. Courses range from basic literacy to advanced classes where individuals can explore Braille music notation or complex mathematical equations.

  • Vocational Rehabilitation: These programs focus on career counseling, job training, and placement services, equipping individuals with the skills necessary to enter or re-enter the workforce.

  • Recreational Skills: Engaging in hobbies and leisure activities is vital for a well-rounded life. Specialized training is available for activities ranging from adaptive sports and games to crafting and music.

  • Educational Support: For students with visual impairments, there are specialized courses and resources available that address the unique challenges faced in academic settings, such as OrCam Learn, designed to support individuals with learning issues resulting from conditions like dyslexia or ADHD.

Through these courses and skill training sessions, individuals with visual impairments can gain the competence and confidence needed to lead fulfilling and independent lives. Adaptive techniques not only compensate for vision loss but also leverage an individual's strengths, paving the way for a rich, autonomous lifestyle. 


Independence for visually impaired individuals is about empowerment, access, and support. With the right combination of technology, community support, and personal determination, visual impairment can be a condition managed, not a barrier insurmountable.