Low vision, otherwise known as having reduced eyesight even with the aid of corrective lenses, is a condition with a variety of causes. One way technology is meeting low vision in the middle is with innovators producing gadgets that make navigating life easier. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most effective devices people with low vision can use, and how it can make their lives easier.
iPhone and iPad
There’s no specific app or plug-in people need with these Apple products, as there’s a setting on the devices themselves that can help out. If you go into “Settings” and scroll down to “General”, tap on the “Accessibility” line. There, you can find several options designed to help people with low vision, such as “larger type”, “increase contrast” and “speak auto-text”.
These voice controls are particularly handy for people with low vision because it allows them to manipulate a smartphone as quickly and efficiently as normal-sighted people. Going one step further, the iPhone and iPad have numerous apps that can assist with low vision, such as the hardwired Siri (read this blog post for a firsthand account of Siri’s usefulness), Vlingo, which lets you dictate text and give phone commands, Dragon Dictation, and the voice-search option Google Chrome.
Readers with low vision can feel as though they’ve been robbed of the joy of reading, but devices such as audio books and e-readers are there to save the day. Libraries are a free way for people with low vision to enjoy literature, with a wide variety of titles available.
E-readers, on the other hand, give the person total control over what book they want to read, and they can select one from the comfort of their own home. A bit of a warning, though, as not all e-readers come with the ideal contrast settings. Two that do this are the second-generation Kindle Paperwhite, which offers a 50 percent increase in quality over the previous generation, and the Kobo Aura HD.
This device looks mostly like a pair of slim eyeglasses, but with a contraption on it that “sees” the world. And for people with low vision, it can light things up for them like never before. This article here shows two different ways how people who are blind or have low vision can “subtitle” their world in real-time, opening up doors they never imagined possible
By inputting specifications, a 3-D printer will spit out a multidimensional copy of what you want instead of just an image on a flat piece of paper. While on the surface it appears that 3-D printers have no place in the world of people with low vision, NASA thinks otherwise.
NASA has teamed up with experts in visual impairment technology to produce pictures of space that visually impaired people can touch with their hands. So far, they’ve only focused on a star cluster called NGC 602, but they’ve incorporated many details of it: filaments, gas, dust and, of course, the stars themselves. NASA has been testing their prototype at various conferences in the last year, and debuted their findings at a press conference on January 7.
A company called Lighthouse, which specializes in improving quality of life for the visually impaired, has a free software program called LowBrowse. The only caveat is LowBrowse works with Mozilla Firefox, but this handy add-on scrolls a banner of text at the top, displaying what is beneath your cursor. Users can modify the text size, color, spacing, and style just to suit them, and runs on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.
Many people with low vision are already well familiar with devices such as large print keyboards, fit-on screen magnifiers, and portable magnifiers. But the items on this list represent a bigger step forward, with technology seamlessly blending visually abled and impaired devices for a smoother experience.