EBay has become the latest multinational online retailer to offer improved services to its visually impaired customers.

The American branch of the online auction site eBay announced on September 15 a partnership with the National Federation for the Blind (NFB). The partnership is designed to provide visually impaired Americans with the opportunity to buy and sell items on eBay and to build entrepreneurial businesses using the auction site.

In order to make the site more 'user friendly' for the visually impaired, eBay has developed enhanced search, browse, buy, bid and sell features which can be operated with the keyboard alone as well as assisting technologies like screen access software - which can detect what is displayed on the screen and convert it into speech. One type of screen access software is the Thunder screen reader which can be downloaded at http://www.screenreader.net.

Online electronics and consumer goods retailer Amazon.com also provides access options for the visually impaired through Amazon access which was launched in 2001. Apple's music, video and apps store iTunes is also designed to be compatible for screen reader technology enabling it to be used by those with visual impairments. Other online retailers including a large number of supermarkets also offer services for the visually impaired. 

A spokesperson from the eBay UK press office was not available to comment on when the service would be available to European users.

Details regarding the European Organization for the Blind can be found at http://www.euroblind.org/

The World Blind Union http://www.worldblindunion.org/en/

Amazon access http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/h.html

Information on how the vision-impaired can use iTunes and Screen Reader can be found at http://www.apple.com/accessibility/itunes/vision.html

Information on eBay's services for the visually impaired can be found at http://pages.ebay.com/help/account/accessibility.html