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  • High Tech Gadgets and Low Vision

    Published Feb. 15, 2012

    If you or a loved one have low vision, then you understand how difficult everyday tasks can be for someone dealing with this condition. Common activities like reading, writing, and shopping all present challenges for someone with low vision. While losing vision does not mean giving up your activities, it does mean finding new ways of doing them.

    When vision cannot be improved with regular eyeglasses, medicine or surgery, people with low vision need help to learn how to make the most of their remaining sight and keep their independence. There are many traditional resources available for people with low vision. Typically, people with low vision undergo low vision rehabilitation to learn how to use their remaining vision more effectively. They are also taught about specialty low vision aids and shown how to use them.

    Low vision devices like closed-circuit TV (CCTV) magnifiers have long been the standard in assistive technology. They can magnify type up to 85 times its original size. However, these devices are not portable and can be expensive. The cost might cause some people to delay purchasing such devices until they are in desperate need.

    With the recent innovations in high tech consumer electronics, including tablets, e-readers and smartphones, new and affordable alternatives and supplements to more traditional low vision aids are available. Even better, people with low vision may already own one or more of these devices.

    Today's tablets, e-readers and smartphones offer more alternatives than ever for people with low vision. And while they are more limited in their low vision functionality than dedicated devices like CCTV, they may be all some people need to cope with their low vision, and offer others additional help and convenience. And a study has shown that tablets do in fact help people with low vision to read more easily.

    Some features of these devices and their apps can include:

    Enlargement. Smartphones, tablets and e-readers all have enlargement capabilities, though they will not enlarge text as much as a dedicated CCTV magnifier will. Not all e-readers can increase contrast, which can be a big help for people with low vision. Shop around to see if a particular e-reader will meet your needs.

    Lighting. Apps for many tablets and smartphones use your device's camera and light source to illuminate text or other things you need to see more clearly.

    Voice interface. Many smartphones have some level of voice-recognition, which may help to send texts and emails among other things. Smartphone mapping apps will give turn-by-turn voice commands to help drivers with low vision to find their way when they have trouble reading street signs.

    These and many other features to help with low vision are available on today's high-tech gadgets, as are apps to help with other eye health-related concerns.

    If you or someone you know has low vision, consider some of these latest high tech gadgets. They can be a big help, and are getting better every year.