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Assistive phone apps and the vital help they provide

Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,480 Disability Gamechanger
edited December 2020 in Coffee lounge

As someone who is severely sight impaired, I often question my relationship with technology. Is it something I rely on? Or is it something I'm passionate about and would be regardless of my level of sight? The truth is somewhere in the middle. I do love my technology and greatly enjoy testing out all kinds of gadgets, but I also have a reliance on it for common tasks like reading and navigation.

I thought I’d share some of the assistive apps that I use on my phone. I would recommend these to everyone, not just those with sight loss.

image of a smartphone

The apps:


Lazarillo is a GPS app for Android and iOS that has been designed with visual impaired people in mind. It blends the accurate navigation power of Google Maps with a stripped back and simple interface which makes it easy to use.

As soon as you launch Lazarillo, you are greeted with audio description of your current location and surroundings, and as you walk the app will describe the following:

  • where you are
  • where you are heading
  • what sorts of buildings surround you

This is called the ‘explore’ mode, it will also work if you are travelling by car, public transport or bike. It is a great way to learn your environment and navigate without help from another person.

Other helpful features mean you can choose where you want to go; either by manually selecting a location or choosing a category like banks, accessible locations or shops. Lazrillo will then show a list of nearby locations associated with the category you choose and you can then select one to navigate to.

The beauty of the app is its simplicity. The user interface (UI) is clear and customisable to fit what you prefer, and the spoken navigation is easy to understand.

Just this morning I used it to find a post office. I have recently moved into a new area and it successfully navigated me there without fuss. It told me how many metres or feet away I was, what direction the post office was in in relation to my movements and the buildings I passed on the way.

homescreen of the app displaying place category options It reads from front to bottom Recently announced events accessible locations transport banks and ATMs health food stores art and entertainment and finally public buildings
Download Lazarillo on an Android phone.
Download Lazarillo on an iPhone.


I discovered this handy camera based app whilst on the lookout for something that could quickly identify objects and read text such as on letters.

Sadly, that kind of app often costs money and since those of us who use Android phones don't have access to the much praised Seeing AI iPhone application, we have to find alternatives.

That's where Supersense comes in. Upon launch, the app displays three primary modes:

  • read
  • scan
  • find

They will all perform different actions using your phone's camera. Don't worry, it will ask for permission first.

The read function will look for text and read it aloud. This can be helpful for those with a visual impairment, anyone who is dyslexic or someone who gets reading fatigue. The read feature also lets you upload images that contain text so that the app can read it aloud to you.

The find function allows you to select a category like door, chair or person. It then scans your environment to look for that object. When it finds what you are looking for, the app will give auditory and vibratory feedback.

The scan mode evaluates what is shown through your camera and tells you what it is. This feature doesn't always work accurately, but for a free app it gives satisfactory results.

Supersense does offer an optional subscription model, but the standard version of the app provides all the features you need to get good use out of it.

Another option that’s similar to Supersense is the Google Lookout app, which has only just launched in the UK. Given the large resources available to Google, it's highly likely that Lookout will become an extremely viable option.

the homepage of the application displaying the three primary modes across the top which say read explore and find from left to right
Download Supersense on an Android phone.
Download Supersense on an iPhone.

@Voice Aloud Reader

Everyone should have a good document reader, sight impaired or not, but it’s hard to find one with the right set of features to work well on a phone.

However, this app is way more than a document reader. It has become my go-to when reading something on my phone. The app is fast, clever, and like all the others easy to use. I just need to press the share button on what I want to read and select the app. Then it reads aloud the text content in a clear voice that you can customise to your liking.

You can also open items to read from within the app, Voice Aloud Reader will read documents, PDFs, books and even web pages. You can also paste text from your clipboard into the app. Due to this versatility, along with it’s excellent customisation options in the settings menu, I would recommend this app to anybody.

screenshot of the settings page of the app

Download @Voice Aloud Reader on an Android phone.

What apps do you find help you with your specific needs? Have you ever tried any of these? I’d love to hear from you below!

You can also get involved with further tech discussion on this thread.

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  • janer1967janer1967 Community champion Posts: 7,399 Disability Gamechanger
    Thanks for sharing some great apps there that sound really useful
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,480 Disability Gamechanger
    You are very welcome @janer1967, I'm glad you think so.

    There are many more I use aside from these, but I would say the three I have chosen above are amongst the most interesting. 
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  • 66Mustang66Mustang Member Posts: 4,304 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you for sharing these.

    It sounds like technology is a bit of a godsend for you. These apps sound incredibly useful. I especially like sound of the first one. 

    Someone at a support group I go to has severe sight loss and they use their phone camera all the time for looking at things. I believe their eyes let in only a little light and the brightness of the phone screen allows them to take photos of and then look at things that would otherwise be too dark for them to see. They have to however put the screen very close to their eyes. You could argue that it’s not good for the eyes to look at a screen so close but in their situation if that is all they can do to see then I personally am all for it. :)
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,480 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you for sharing @66Mustang :) 

    Yes the first one is super helpful, I normally struggle with GPS navigation because it isn't descriptive enough, but I was amazed that I was able to walk to a post office, along a route I've never been before, simply following what this thing said.

    Looking at a screen definitely has it's risks, but as you say, needs must in some situations. There's always the option of special glasses to reduce the impact of the glare, which is something I use. Camera technologies are always advancing for those who are sight impaired, there is assistive software that will let you use your camera to point at people, log their name and then it will remember them. So you could essentially figure out who is in the room with you, and where they are.

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  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,480 Disability Gamechanger

    Apps that make life more accessible

    Hi all, just a heads up about this super useful resource on the Scope website, there's some amazing apps on here.
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  • Butler356Butler356 Member, Community champion Posts: 37 Courageous
    This sounds really useful, thank you for the knowledge.
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,480 Disability Gamechanger
    No problem @Butler356 :) 
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