An example of a Braille watch

How Can People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Tell Time?

March 10, 2016

With daylight saving time just around the corner for those of us in the United States, we thought we’d take a look at some of the more common ways of telling time as a person with vision loss. Asking someone for the time is always a good option, but this obviously won’t work when no one is around! Thankfully there are many inexpensive and easy to read (and use) devices for everyone. From watches and clocks with large numbers to talking and Braille devices, there is something out there to meet all needs and preferences.

  1. Watches and Clocks with Large Numbers

People with low vision can easily see clocks and watches that have large numbers. Watches with a large face and clocks with large black numbers on a white background can also help. These are widely available and easy to find. Digital watches and timers are also a good option provided that the display and numbers are large enough for the person to see.

  1. Talking Watches and Clocks

People with low or no vision might opt to use talking watches and clocks. They can easily find out the time with just the press of a button. Talking clocks and watches also have features like alarms and calendars, and these can be easily set independently by the user. From elegant gold to sport and keychain watches, there is a style for everyone!

  1. Braille and Tactile Watches

These are my personal favorite and are more common among people who are totally blind. On a Braille watch, raised dots are near the regular numbers. Each number is generally represented as follows:

  • 12:00 is identified by three vertical dots.
  • 3:00 and 9:00 are two dots arranged horizontally.
  • 6:00 is identified with two dots arranged vertically.
  • All other numbers are identified with one dot.

People tell the time by feeling the direction of the small and large hands and the dots. Simply put, it’s exactly like glancing at a regular watch, except you are doing it by touch. Today it is common to find a Braille and talking watch combined in one product. Braille watches also come in a variety of styles for both men and women.

Other Ways of Telling Time

Products like computers and smartphones have built-in clocks, and assistive technology has made it easier for people with vision loss to also take advantage of these and other features. I can hear the time on my iPhone and even set an alarm or timer, which is completely accessible thanks to the Voiceover software. The Apple Watch is also completely accessible for those with vision loss. The Eone Bradley Timepiece is a newly developed tactile watch that promises to give people with vision loss another way of telling time.

Most people can easily glance at a watch and might take this for granted. Having vision loss doesn’t mean someone can no longer keep track of time independently, as there are many devices in the market. With the variety of watches and clocks currently available, anyone can find something to meet their needs and style preferences. I invite you to check out our Tools for Living Store, where you can see and purchase the different clocks and watches available to people with vision loss. Thanks for reading, and if you live in the United States remember to set your clock one hour ahead this upcoming Saturday, March 12 before you go to bed!

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