DIAGRAM Reading Technology Survey

Summary Report- Spring 2012

Introduction

The DIAGRAM Center Reading Technology Survey, an online survey conducted during February 2012, seems to have revealed some clear trends in how people who are blind and visually impaired obtain and access reading materials. With only ten questions, the results of the survey can be quickly reviewed and are available below in HTML with the data presented as tables. A non-accessible PDF version (provided by Survey Gizmo) is also available. While the number of respondents was relatively high for research in low-incidence disability (230+/-), the demographic data reveal that most respondents were from a cohort that does not necessarily represent the majority of blind or visually impaired readers. Most of the respondents were blind (59.4%) and employed, retired or in school with only 12.1% self-identifying as unemployed. In addition, respondents tended to be computer users who accessed electronic files with screen-readers, screen magnifiers or refreshable braille with only 11.7% reporting that they do not use assistive technology. Add to this the fact that this was an online survey that was announced via email and social media, it is perhaps not surprising that our cohort was largely employed and technically savvy. However, despite the similarities of the respondents, it was nonetheless striking that their responses were clearly skewed toward certain products and agencies. In every category of reading material (news and information, pleasure, work, and educational), the same five reading technologies dominated the responses. Screen readers (such as JAWS, VoiceOver, and NVDA) were reported as the most used in every category. After screen readers, came Library of Congress players, Apple products, Kurzweil products and Victor products in different orders of preference depending on the type of reading material. More varied responses came from the question of where respondents obtained reading materials. If we combine the responses for DIAGRAM Center Reading Technology Survey “sometimes” and “often”, respondents report obtaining reading materials from various organizations in the following order:
  1. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped 80.5%
  2. Mainstream news and information Web sites (New York Times, CNN, etc.) 68.9%
  3. Bookshare 56.8%
  4. Learning Ally (formerly RFB&D) 40.9%
  5. American Printing House for the Blind 38.3%
  6. Public library 38.3%
  7. Audible.com 31.2%
  8. Amazon 30.5%
  9. Disability student services 19.3%
  10. School library 19.3%
It should be noted that since few of the respondents were students, it’s logical that DSS offices and school libraries were seldom used. Similarly, Bookshare’s high ranking may have been skewed since, as the lead organization in DIAGRAM, Bookshare helped to disseminate the online survey and thus more Bookshare members may have answered than if the survey was more broadly advertised. Certainly, any research should be repeated before it’s considered meaningful and this survey is only a first step in discovering what tools and technologies people who are blind and visually impaired are actually using. Such data are valuable since with limited resources dedicated to assistive technology, support should be focused on those devices and reading tools that are most used by the people who rely on them for access to education, employment and enjoyment.

Full Results

1. For news and information reading, what hardware or software reading tools do you use to access newspapers, magazines or other publications? Please select all that apply. Total responses: 236
Value Count Percent
Screen reader (JAWS, VoiceOver, NVDA, etc.) on a laptop, netbook, desktop computer or handheld device 152 64.4%
Library of Congress NLS player 97 41.1%
Apple device (iPhone, iPad, etc.) 96 40.7%
Victor Reader (any model) 92 39%
Other 45 19.1%
Kurzweil software or device 40 16.9%
Screen magnifier (ZoomText, Zoom, Magnifier, etc.) on a laptop, netbook, desktop computer or handheld device 37 15.7%
I do not obtain news and information via portable reading devices. 26 11%
Android device (phone, tablet, etc.) 18 7.6%
BookSense 17 7.2%
Kindle (any model) 15 6.4%
BookPort 12 5.1%
Plextalk (any model) 10 4.2%
Nook (any model) 3 1.3%
ReadHear 3 1.3%
EasyReader 2 0.8%
Milestone 1 0.4%
2. For pleasure reading, what hardware or software reading tools do you use to access books and other publications? Please select all that apply. Total responses: 231
Value Count Percent
Screen reader (JAWS, VoiceOver, NVDA, etc.) on a laptop, netbook, desktop computer or handheld device 131 56.7%
Library of Congress NLS player 123 53.2%
Victor Reader (any model) 104 45%
Apple device (iPhone, iPad, etc.) 83 35.9%
Other 53 22.9%
Kurzweil software or device 38 16.5%
Screen magnifier (ZoomText, Zoom, Magnifier, etc.) on a laptop, netbook, desktop computer or handheld device 29 12.6%
Kindle (any model) 20 8.7%
BookSense 19 8.2%
Plextalk (any model) 14 6.1%
I do not obtain pleasure-reading materials via portable reading devices. 13 5.6%
BookPort 13 5.6%
Android device (phone, tablet, etc.) 11 4.8%
Nook (any model) 5 2.2%
Milestone 4 1.7%
ReadHear 3 1.3%
EasyReader 2 0.9%
3. For work reading, what hardware or software reading tools do you use to access books and other publications? Please select all that apply. Total responses: 231
Value Count Percent
Screen reader (JAWS, VoiceOver, NVDA, etc.) on a laptop, netbook, desktop computer or handheld device 143 61.9%
Apple device (iPhone, iPad, etc.) 60 26%
Victor Reader (any model) 58 25.1%
Other 58 25.1%
Kurzweil software or device 50 21.6%
Library of Congress NLS player 41 17.7%
Screen magnifier (ZoomText, Zoom, Magnifier, etc.) on a laptop, netbook, desktop computer or handheld device 37 16%
I do not obtain work-reading materials via portable reading devices. 33 14.3%
Kindle (any model) 10 4.3%
Plextalk (any model) 10 4.3%
BookSense 9 3.9%
BookPort 9 3.9%
Android device (phone, tablet, etc.) 5 2.2%
EasyReader 4 1.7%
Milestone 2 0.9%
ReadHear 1 0.4%
Nook (any model) 1 0.4%
4. For educational reading, what hardware or software reading tools do you use to access books and other publications? Please select all that apply. Total responses: 228
Value Count Percent
Screen reader (JAWS, VoiceOver, NVDA, etc.) on a laptop, netbook, desktop computer or handheld device 141 61.8%
Library of Congress NLS player 86 37.7%
Victor Reader (any model) 85 37.3%
Apple device (iPhone, iPad, etc.) 65 28.5%
Kurzweil software or device 46 20.2%
Other 43 18.9%
Screen magnifier (ZoomText, Zoom, Magnifier, etc.) on a laptop, netbook, desktop computer or handheld device 32 14%
I do not obtain educational materials via portable reading devices. 30 13.2%
BookSense 14 6.1%
BookPort 12 5.3%
Kindle (any model) 12 5.3%
Plextalk (any model) 11 4.8%
ReadHear 6 2.6%
Android device (phone, tablet, etc.) 5 2.2%
Milestone 2 0.9%
EasyReader 2 0.9%
Nook (any model) 0 0%
5. Where do you access most of your reading material? Three responses are offered in the dropdown menus below: rarely or never, sometimes or often. Please select one response for each choice.
Organization Rarely or never Sometimes Often Number of responses
Amazon 69.5% 21.8% 8.6% 197
American Printing House for the Blind 61.7% 28.1% 10.2% 196
Audible.com 68.8% 17.8% 13.4% 202
Bookshare 43.1% 24.6% 32.2% 211
Learning Ally (formerly RFB&D) 58.9% 28.2% 12.9% 209
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped 19.5% 14.0% 66.5% 215
Mainstream news and information Web sites (New York Times, CNN, etc.) 31.2% 34.0% 34.9% 215
Disability student services 80.7% 9.9% 9.4% 202
School library 80.7% 13.4% 5.9% 202
Public library 61.7% 29.0% 9.3% 214
6. Which best describes your current school enrollment? Total responses: 230
Value Count Percent
Elementary school student 3 1.3%
Middle school student 8 3.5%
High school student 8 3.5%
College student (undergraduate/graduate) 28 12.2%
Post-graduate student 17 7.4%
Not attending school 166 72.2%
7. Which best describes your current employment? Total responses: 232
Value Count Percent
Employed 114 49.1%
Unemployed 28 12.1%
Unemployed but in school 36 15.5%
Retired 54 23.3%
8. What best describes your level of vision? Total responses: 234
Value Count Percent
Blind 139 59.4%
Low vision 63 26.9%
Other print disability 6 2.6%
Sighted, responding on behalf of a person with a print disability 9 3.8%
Sighted 17 7.3%
9. What assistive technology, if any, do you primarily use to access electronic reading materials? Total responses: 231
Value Count Percent
Screen magnifier 30 13%
Screen reader 140 60.6%
Refreshable Braille display 34 14.7%
None 27 11.7%
10. Do you live in the U.S.? Total responses: 233
Value Count Percent
Yes 218 93.6%
No 3 1.3%
If you do not live in the U.S., please list your country of residence 12 5.2%

Ideas that work.The DIAGRAM Center is a Benetech initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (Cooperative Agreement #H327B100001). Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the U.S. Department of Education.

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