Assistive technology — products, devices, and equipment used to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with a visual disability — can help people with low vision live with fewer limitations. Technology enables people with low vision and vision loss to participate in daily activities with minimal impairment.
Continue reading for information on available assistive technology options. The Glaucoma Research Foundation doesn’t endorse any specific products but provides the information for your reference.
High-Tech Versus Low-Tech
Generally speaking, low-tech refers to technology that doesn’t require a power source, while high-tech usually does. Low tech might include anything from a large font size book to braille, eyeglasses, or a magnifying glass. High-tech typically includes various apps from different operating systems, text-to-speech technology, e-readers, video magnifiers, smartphones, CCTV, or electronic glasses like eSight.
Types of Assistive Technology
There are several categories of assistive technologies based on their function. These categories include reading assistance, mobility devices, and all-in-one technologies.
Audio and Electronic Books
Audible and audiobooks allow users to listen to a book. Electronic books, like Kindle, enable the reader to adjust the content’s text size and the contrast of the page.
Closed-circuit televisions (CCTV)
CCTV has been available for decades. The low vision device uses a video camera to capture reading material in real-time and displays it on a monitor. The device will magnify text or objects up to 40 times their actual size. Some products offer HD image quality, and most are compatible with any computer monitor.
Smartphones, Tablets, and Computers
Most smartphones, tablets, and computer screens are customizable to increase accessibility for people with different visual abilities. For example, users can increase text size, alter colors, and use voice commands to access apps and other valuable functions. The App Store and Google Play Store also have downloadable apps for visually impaired persons to help them connect with accessible tools, magnify documents, screen readers, and more.
Computer programs or software can assist by reading text out loud to the user or magnifying text and images on the screen. In addition, some websites have accessibility features tailored to doing all these things. Low-vision users can also buy a larger monitor or television screen to improve visibility.
Low Vision Apps and Software
- VoiceOver is a screen reader that describes what’s happening on a device, which can help persons with vision impairment to navigate on-screen more easily.
- LookTel Money Reader instantly identifies currency and describes it aloud, enabling people with visual impairments to quickly and easily identify and count money.
- TapTapSee is designed to help visually impaired persons identify objects they encounter in their daily lives. The app will audibly identify an item by double-tapping the screen and taking a photo of anything, from any angle.
- The LookTel Recognizer app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch allows users with visual impairments or blindness to instantly recognize everyday objects such as packaged goods in the pantry, identity cards, grocery store items, or CDs in a music collection. Once a library of recognized items has been built, users can simply point the iPhone’s camera at an object and the phone will recognize and describe the item instantly. The LookTel apps were developed under sponsorship from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Eye Institute (NEI).
- The KNFB Reader is an app developed by the National Federation of the Blind and Sensotec NV. The KNFB Reader is available for iOS, Android, and Windows 10 devices. It takes a photo of printed material, uploads it to your tablet, phone, or screen, and then reads the text aloud.
High-Tech Portable Magnifiers
- The Eschenbach SmartLux is a portable video magnifier with a large field of view, a non-reflective 5-inch LCD, and a high magnification range. In addition, the portable magnifier makes reading simple, as the camera is centrally positioned under the display and is easy to use with large, tactile operating buttons.
- Mobile CCTV can travel to work or the classroom. One option is the Optron i-stick, which weighs less than 4 pounds and can be used with a laptop or a monitor.
- Telesensory offers various hand-held and portable video magnifiers that make it easy to read grocery lists, price tags, menus, and small print. In addition, you can adjust to brighter colors or change from positive (black on white) to negative text (white on black).
Humanware makes a diverse selection of assistive technologies.
- The Trekker Breeze is a talking GPS (global positioning system). The device verbally announces the names of streets, intersections, and landmarks.
- ScanneR can scan any text document and read it back to you in seconds. It does not need to be connected to a PC and is built with its own hard drive that stores up to 500,000 pages of text.
- The Victor Reader Stream is a portable DAISY talking book, MP3, and music CD player that allows users to download various materials from textbooks to magazines.
Assistive technology is life-altering and continues to revolutionize how people with low vision interact and perform daily tasks. It continues to open doors and remove countless barriers that once made life-limiting for people with low vision.
Help Us Find a Cure
While there’s no cure for glaucoma, advancements in research continue to bring us closer to finding a cure and restoring vision loss from glaucoma. You can help find a cure with cash, stock, or a vehicle donation. Your support will give hope to those living with glaucoma and accelerate our search for a cure and vision restoration.
Posted on October 4, 2022