Using an abacus if you are visually impaired

Abacus with red beads
Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    I was taught to use the abacus at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in the late 1960’s, and I still use it occasionally, just to keep in practice.

    Last Saturday evening, my wife Lee was beating me at Scrabble, and I was keeping score with my old “beady buddy”, as my teacher used to call it. It lacks the sophistication and power of a talking calculator, but it is a wonderful tool for addition, subtraction, and other basic math functions.

    The type used by people who are blind contains a felt pat under the columns, enabling the user to examine where the beads are without accidentally moving them.

    In my next entry, I’ll put the abacus into its proper perspective by telling you about what I used before the “beady buddy” came along. Ever heard of a Cubarithm board?

    About the Author

    This article was authored by Jerry Barrier, Assistive Technology Specialist on the New England Low Vision and Blindness Training Team.

    Jerry has worked in the field of assistive technology for over 20 years. He spent six years as assistant manager at the Verizon center for customers with disabilities, followed by seven years as an assistive technology consultant specializing in work with Deafblind consumers. Most recently, he ended a nine-year stint at the Perkins School for the Blind in the field of assistive technology.

    Jerry is past president and current secretary of the Bay State Council of the Blind, and past president of VIBUG, a long-standing Boston-based group of technology users.

    His interests include audio production, accessible web design, and “birding by ear”.  He has consulted on numerous accessibility projects with Mass Audubon and continues a long-standing working relationship with that organization.

    If anyone is in need of training for their student, senior, co-worker or veteran, please contact New England Low Vision and Blindness to schedule a personal consultation.  You can call our toll-free number 888-211-6933 or email us at

    Request Information

    Post Page Form
    Address (Required if requesting a brochure)