I was first introduced to the world of calculator applications for low vision when I was in middle school and discovered that I couldn’t see the graphing calculator that was used in my Algebra 1 class. The buttons on the calculator had a small font size and were difficult to identify, and the non-backlit display was impossible for me to read since it had poor contrast and was not in a very high resolution. While ideally I would have started using accessible calculator apps while taking Algebra 1, my school district did not actually approve a large print graphing calculator accommodation until a few years later, and since then I have used a few different calculator apps in my various high school and college math classes. Here are five accessible calculator apps and web applications that can help students with low vision in the classroom, including a mix of low-cost (less than $5) and free calculator apps.
The myScript calculator application is one of the first accessible calculator applications I ever tried out and is probably my most-used calculator option. Instead of having a user input values using a keyboard or by pressing on-screen buttons, myScript allows users to draw or write out equations using a stylus or their finger, and displays the answer in large print, and is also a viable option for students with dysgraphia. This is the calculator app that was approved for use on my personal iPad for Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) standardized exams, as well as for the SAT and ACT exams. The myScript Calculator costs $2.99 and is available for iOS and Android devices.
Developer Adam Croser has created two different calculator applications that have enhanced VoiceOver support and are accessible with switch control as well as support for refreshable braille displays. While I have only used the Talking Scientific Calculator app in my math classes, both applications feature high-contrast buttons, high contrast display, VoiceOver screen reader support, and the ability to use speech recordings. One of my favorite features of this application is the fact that numbers are read naturally and not one digit at a time, so it is easier to follow along with speech output. Talking Scientific Calculator and Talking Calculator cost $4.99 each and are available for iOS devices including iPhone, iPad, and iTouch.
Big Digits is a simple four-function calculator app that features high contrast buttons and VoiceOver support. I received a report from a reader that this application was approved for standardized testing for an elementary school aged student with Guided Access enabled, though I have not used it in any of my own classes/exams. Big Digits is $2.99 and available for iOS devices.
Desmos Calculator is a popular free mainstream calculator application with extensive accessibility support for screen reader users, screen magnification, high contrast displays, and many other popular low vision and nonvisual assistive technology features. Unlike other applications featured in this post, Desmos does not require any downloads and can be accessed from any internet connected device via the Desmos website, though Desmos applications are available for download on Android and iOS devices as well. I prefer to use the Desmos calculator application on my computer or in my tablet’s web browser while working on online math assignments.
Mathway and Symbolab are an automated tutoring services that shows users how to solve equations instead of just giving them an answer like a calculator would. While these types of applications can’t be used for standardized testing or exams, I found them helpful when doing practice assignments for my calculus classes because they provided more detailed explanations on how to solve the equations than the class textbook and also supported keyboard input and high resolution graphics. Mathway and Symbolab can be accessed for free through the web browser or with Android or iOS applications.
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated October 2023; original post published March 2018.
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