Top ten apps for visually impaired students

This blog has been updated! Originally published 23/07/16. Amended 29/06/22

visual impairmant and sight loss affects millions of people in the UK
Starting university is a leap into an independent and self-reliant way of life. For students who are blind or visually impaired, some forward-thinking is essential to ensure that you have the right tools to ease this transition. The good news is that modern technology and smartphones have helped to close the gap between disabled students and their peers, particularly in the form of apps. Here's our selection to get you started.

Several are free in their basic form, some cost a few pounds and one is a heavyweight option. And don't miss number 10!

DON'T FORGET DSA: Any UK student in HE or FE with a visual impairment could be eligible for extra funding from Disabled Students Allowances, which may cover some of these costs and will also recommend other changes to make sure your education is accessible.

1. AccessNote (Free)AccessNote on the iTunes store

The American Foundation for the Blind launched the official iOS notetaker, AccessNote. It works in collaboration with VoiceOver to create a systematic, feature-rich note taking aid.

2. Dragon Dictation (Free) on iOS and Android

Dictate your message, adding punctuation verbally, and receive it on screen instantly. Your delivery options for this message include text, email, copy-and-paste, and social media websites.

Can technology help in higher and further education? 

Absolutely! Learn how assistive technologies can help students and professionals learn and teach more effectively in our how to use assistive technology in higher and further education training course.

Find out more 

3. Evernote (Free)

The Evernote app stores voice notes, photographs and text providing users with a medium to share them between multiple devices. Photographs are scanned for text using VoiceOver support.

4. Kindle app (Free)

The Kindle app allows people to download books from Supportive features for those with visual impairment include large print, computer generated speech and human narrators.

5. Audible (Free trial then monthly fee)

The Audible app is available on both iPhone and Android devices, providing easy access to a huge selection of audio books including academic titles.

Talking scientific calculator as it appears on the iPad6. Talking Scientific Calculator ($7.99)

The talking calculator has a range of voices to choose from and allows you to record your own voice. It works with VoiceOver for the blind, or has a high contrast options for those with limited sight. Features include large colourful buttons and the option to use speech for answers, button names and formulas. Button names are read aloud as your finger moves over the screen. Double tapping a button enters the number onscreen.

How can technology help my employee with sight loss? 

Discover our Don't Disable Me training course series that focuses on the lived experiences of people with disabilities including those who face visual barriers. In the course, you can learn first hand how technology can support people with sight loss at work, in study and day-to-day life.

7. Google Translate (Free)

Google Translate transforms words and phrases users say aloud into a specified foreign language. This function is particularly useful to visually impaired students.

8. KNFB Reader App (£79.99)

This app is a financial commitment, but promises to be ‘fast, accurate and efficient’. It converts printed text into speech to enable access to both single and multiple page documents. It promises to work with ‘the touch of a single button’ and is facilitated by ‘a field of view report, automatic page detection, and tilt control.’

9. Alarmed: Reminders + Timers (iOS Free + paid for extras)

Fully accessible with VoiceOver, this app is an excellent tool for organisation. It includes a notes area with reminders, a repeating alarm feature, a snooze option and a multi-use timer. Advanced features for a small cost provide you with the ability to set interval timers for doing repetitive chores, which could be used to set revision breaks.

10. And finally...some more apps and technologies that can help

On Tuesday 28 June 2022 AbilityNet, RNIB and Envision discussed how technology can help blind people and people with sight loss. The webinar shares some of the assistive technologies and free tools available that offer support including their free built-in adjustments, apps and resources.

Access the webinar recording and transcript

Further resources