Welcome to the National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NTAC-BVI). This section of the website is designed to provide information and resources for individuals who are blind and visually impaired and their families and friends. We will add information to this portion of the website and invite you give us feedback on what you would like to see. You may provide suggestions by sending an email to NRTC@colled.msstate.edu.

Profiles of Workers who are Blind or Visually Impaired

The NRTC is highlighting a growing list of persons who are working in successful careers. These short profiles are designed to encourage employers with the capabilities and talents that can be found among persons who are blind or visually impaired. Click here to meet these successful workers in a variety of careers. If you have someone you would like to nominate to be added to our list, please contact the NRTC staff at 662-325-2001 or by email at nrtc@colled.msstate.edu.

Career Advantage: Online Employment Preparation Program

Are you making the transition from high school, college, or other training program into the workforce? Or are you an adult seeking to find or change employment? If so, this self-guided program was designed for you! Career Advantage for V.I.P.s: An Employment Preparation Primer for Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired offers eight instructional modules which you can explore at your own pace. For access to the Career Advantage for V.I.P.s program, please complete the survey at http://tiny.cc/CareerAdvantage. If you have any questions about the program, please contact the NRTC staff at 662-325-2001 or by email at nrtc@colled.msstate.edu.

Top 10 Features of an Accessible VoIP phone

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones are found in many offices but are often inaccessible to individuals with blindness or visual impairments (BVI). If you’re assisting a consumer who is BVI to acquire an accessible VoIP system for their office, and want to make sure that it’s fully accessible, here are the top 10 features to keep in mind.

Discernable physical keys

Keys on VoIP phones that are uniform in shape and texture and are placed close together can be difficult to use for individuals with BVI. A VoIP phone that has well-spaced, prominent keys that are different shapes and textures can make the interface of a physical VoIP phone accessible. Keys with unique textures or shapes provide a point of orientation and make memorizing key locations easier when navigating a phone by touch.

Accessible caller ID

Like most physical phones, VoIP phones usually display caller ID on a digital display that is difficult for someone with BVI to use. A VoIP phone that can connect to an external talking caller ID or has some other way of non-visually communicating caller ID can be used successfully by someone with BVI.

Accessible voicemail indicator

VoIP phones have visual indicators to alert users to new voicemail. Look for systems that present this information in an accessible manner. For example, sending an email to the user upon receipt of a voicemail is an accessible alternative for people with BVI.

Accessible call log

The call log of a physical VoIP phone is available on the digital display without an accessible alternative. Currently, an accessible call log can be acquired by connecting a software based VoIP phone (softphone) to the same line as the physical phone so that it can be accessed by a person with BVI using computer access software.

Accessible address book

Like the call log, the address book is presented visually on the digital display of a physical VoIP phone. The most accessible way to use the address book is to use a softphone that can make calls on the same line as the physical phone so that the user can use the address book using screen access software on the softphone.

Accessible softkeys

A softkey is a physical button that changes function depending on circumstances. The current function of a softkey is presented visually on a digital display just above the key so that a user knows what the key will do if pressed. Softkeys that have audible or tactile indications that their status has changed are accessible to people with BVI.

Large font/high contrast display

In many cases VoIP displays are not backlit and have small fonts and low contrast, making the display very difficult to read for someone with low vision. A VoIP phone is more accessible if the display has high contrast between foreground and background. Large font also makes the display easier to read.

Accessible documentation

Printed documentation that uses a small font is inaccessible to someone with BVI. The most universally accessible style of documentation will be digital formats such as DOCX or HTML. Digital documents can be enlarged by screen magnifiers, read with screen readers, or printed in braille. (NOTE: PDF documents that contain only images of text are not accessible to screen readers or braille displays.)

Accessible indication of status changes

In order to be accessible, status changes, such as phone muting and display navigation, should have sounds to signal these changes. Such sounds, commonly called earcons, make navigating VoIP systems easier for a person with BVI. For example, a different tone playing for mute and unmute allows a person with BVI to determine the status of their device.

Accessible alternative for display information

The display on a physical phone can be used for many functions, from caller ID to settings. Communicating this information using synthetic speech makes a VoIP system more accessible. Currently, the only method for presenting VoIP functions in a completely accessible manner is to use a softphone, because there are no physical VoIP phones that present their information in an accessible manner from the device itself.

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Understanding Employer Knowledge and Attitudes

Have you ever wondered what prospective employers think about hiring blind workers? New research from the NRTC sheds light onto employers’ knowledge and attitudes.

Transition Activity Calendar

This Transition Activity Calendar designed by The National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC) at Mississippi State University lists tasks which students who are blind or visually impaired need to complete as early as middle school in order to be ready to attend college. From taking the right high school courses, to learning to use the most appropriate assistive technology, to career exploration and finding the colleges best suited to the selected course of study, to what the student is looking for in campus life, the demands of good preparation start early and continue through 12th grade and the summer before the first Fall semester of college.

Participate in Our Research

The NRTC has launched an online participant registry and we invite all who are interested to visit this link to sign up: tiny.cc/participant-registry. This registry will help us with recruitment for current and future research, and will be used to inform individuals about projects at the NRTC that may be of specific interest. Individuals who complete the registry will be asked to submit demographic information that researchers at the NRTC can use to determine eligibility for particular projects.