The loss of the ability to read, or to read easily and comfortably, can have an enormous impact on the lives of people with low vision. While alternatives to printed text exist, such as audiobooks, many people prefer reading to listening. Vision aids, such as illuminated magnifiers, can assist with reading, but are often large, making them inconvenient to store, travel with, and use.
Fortunately for low-vision readers, a recent study shows that tablet computers now offer a realistic alternative to audiobooks and magnifiers.
A recent article on EyeSmart, an online publication by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, reported on a study at the Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine showing that tablet computers can help people with low vision increase their reading speed. The study tested the difference in reading speed in low vision subjects who read text in print and on a tablet. All study participants increased their reading speed by at least 42 words per minute when reading a tablet set with 18 point text.
What You Can Do
If someone you care about suffers from low vision and would like to be able to read again, consider buying that person a tablet computer or helping them to buy one for themselves. Study subject with the “poorest eyesight” had the most success with iPad or Kindle, so you could begin your search for a tablet by researching both these products. Your best strategy may be to bring your friend or relative to a store that sells these tablets so he or she can try them out.
In situations where affordability is a problem, buying a used device is a good strategy. Many people also sell or give away their tablets when they upgrade to a next generation device, providing an opportunity to buy a used device at a lower cost than brand new items. Just be sure to thoroughly test used devices before making an in-store or in-person purchase. If you buy a used device online, check whether the retailer offers a warranty or guarantee and check the device as soon as you receive it so that you can get your money back if it doesn’t work as advertised.
Vision Screening Apps
The EyeSmart article also points out that various eye health apps are now available for tablet and smartphone users, so those who invest in a tablet might want to purchase one or more of these programs. Eye health apps range from medication trackers to vision tests that can help physicians and patients identify changes in eyesight. These apps are low cost and can make a great adjunct to a program of regular eye exams, medication and other vision treatments.