Tim Longhurst's Blog

Helping vision impaired babies learn with computers

May 19th, 2008 · 3 Comments

We recently had a beautiful baby boy born into our family. He’s absolutely perfect. As in most families we’ve all been thinking about his future and how we can work together to create a happy life for him full of opportunities. One consideration for us is that Bodie is legally blind.

We’ve been advised that Mac’s are the most commonly used platform for vision-impaired people. Being a Mac user, I’ve spent a little time exploring what applications are available for vision-impaired babies or toddlers. Well, there isn’t a lot out there.

The good news is that I’ve found a great little application called AlphaBaby. When running, the application allows kids to play with a Mac keyboard without anyone fearing accidentally renamed – or deleted – files. As the baby taps letters and numbers on the keyboard, the characters appear in a large font on the screen. The application also ‘speaks’ the characters in a synthesised voice – or your voice, if you go to the effort of recording your voice in a separate program.

I wrote to the program’s developer, Laura Dickey, and requested two features be added with vision impaired babies in mind: 1) a black background option (it’s currently white) and 2) the option of having even the “escape”, “tab”, “delete” keys etc. spoken outloud – a great way to teach kids the keyboard. Laura was quick to respond and felt that these two features could be added (with a few key’s excepted) – possibly in the next revision.

AlphaBaby is available for free download. I donated to support the ongoing development of the program and if you find it useful I hope you do too!

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Category: Communication and connection