Under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, commercial, public and government entities are required to provide reasonable auxiliary aids and services to individuals with disabilities to ensure inclusion and effective communication. Although the rules are not precisely specific, there are a number of readily achievable accommodations available for people who are blind or have low vision, many of which are commonly used.
In public spaces such as airports and bus stations, verbal announcements are used to augment visual information like arrival and departure times. Additionally, most public transit vehicles are equipped with recordings that announce stops and other travel information.
Some ATMs are equipped with voice command capabilities to give people who are blind or with low vision, access to their financial accounts without having to use a keyboard. These are also generally equipped with headset jacks to make the transactions more private.
Audible signals at intersections indicate when traffic lights have changed and whether it is safe to cross the street. Some elevators are equipped with voice augmentation to alert riders to floor numbers.
Smartphones are opening up whole new vistas for people who are blind or have low vision. Dozens of talking apps can be downloaded: turn-by-turn maps, blood pressure monitors, item identifiers and game play readers are just a few of the apps that are particularly helpful for people with vision disabilities.
Audio description is provided at theaters and sporting events for people with vision disabilities who have difficulty seeing a screen, stage or exhibition. It helps them to follow what is going on by describing essential action, facial expressions, costumes and/or scenery. The describer occasionally speaks “between the lines” to describe entrances, exits, actions, and key props or equipment. Museums also offer audio descriptors to illustrate videos or works of art.
Thanks to the ADA and advances in audio technology, people who are blind or have low vision are more independent and safer.