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Smart Devices for the Visually Impaired

I was interested to read “Tools for Low Vision Patients: High Hopes for High-Tech Gadgets” (Clinical Update, February) and the discussion about using electronic devices such as iPads and Kindles for low vision purposes.

We are reaching an interesting point in our history. While these devices are becoming more affordable and easier to use, the population that we treat is aging and experiencing increasing vision loss from diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma. Moreover, the current generation of the elderly is more tech-savvy than prior ones, and this trend will grow significantly as baby boomers continue to enter their 60s and 70s.

I think we can all agree that low vision is a real specialty within eye care and that many patients benefit from the help of practitioners trained specifically in this art. However, handheld readers, tablets and other electronic devices may serve as a tool for those of us who are not trained in low vision and who have many patients wanting to improve their reading without a low vision evaluation.

As these devices and their low vision apps continue to multiply, it would be good for the Academy to continue serving as a source of education for both its members and the public. Hopefully, we will see further articles in EyeNet and courses at our Annual Meeting about specific devices and their designs to help low vision patients. I hope the EyeSmart program can somehow be utilized to help the public understand the options that are available to them as well.

Gary S. Schwartz, MD   
St. Paul, Minn.   

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Academy agrees! AAO is continuing to follow developments on the use of smart devices for patients with low vision and will provide increased coverage for members and the public on how new technology can help. Currently, patient-directed information is available on EyeSmart (visit www.eyesmart.org and select “Low Vision”) and in the low vision patient education brochure (visit www.aao.org/store). And watch for further updates here in EyeNet.

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