Reading with a Vision Impairment

They say that reading is fundamental but for many persons it’s a skill that gets harder with age and/or declining eyesight. Luckily there are products that can make enjoying your favorite book or periodical enjoyable again, even if that means a machine is reading it to you. This blog will look at the importance of reading and the many varying ways that someone can enjoy the art of reading either visually, by touch, audibly, or a combination therein. Information in this blog came from Importance And Benefits Of Reading Skills In Communication, All The Reasons to Read: It’s Important, Reading Tips For People With Low Vision, and Low vision aids for reading and daily activities.

The Importance of Reading

One of the advantages of reading is that it engages various parts of your brain. When you read, you exercise your comprehension abilities and your analytical abilities. It fires up your imagination and stimulates the memory centers of your mind. It helps recall information as well as stabilize your emotions.

The importance of a reading habit is that it strengthens mental muscles. Reading is one of the best mental workouts there is. It’s been found that regular mental stimulation can slow down and possibly even prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Reading keeps the mind agile and young.

In other words, reading can help expand your mind, helps with creative thinking, improves concentration, helps you gain a greater perspective, can help you destress, give you a sense of belonging, can be a great conversation starter, and can help increase your vocabulary.

Types of Devices to Help with Reading with Low Vision

Approximately 3.22 million people in the United States have a visual impairment. For people with a visual impairment, reading is often one of the most difficult challenges. Many people with low vision stop reading altogether, because what used to be an effortless and enjoyable activity now requires preparation and a lot of adjustment.

There are many low vision devices that can make reading easier and more rewarding for people with macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, tunnel vision and other low vision conditions.

Low Vision Devices for Reading

1. Reading Magnifier

The most used visual aid for reading is a hand-held magnifier.  In the correct power, magnifiers allow people with low vision to read labels, oven dials, and the text on medicine bottles. There are different kinds of magnifiers, including small pocket magnifiers, full-page illuminated magnifiers, and magnifiers that are mounted on adjustable stands.

2. Video Magnifier

While traditional optical magnifiers, such as magnifying glasses, are generally helpful, some people benefit more from a video magnifier.

A video magnifier, or closed-circuit television (CCTV), has a camera that transmits magnified images (up to 50x or higher) and displays them on a large monitor or TV screen.

3. Portable Electronic Magnifiers

A portable electronic magnifier resembles an iPad or tablet. By holding this device in front of reading material, you can view the magnified version on its LED screen.

4. High-Power Reading Glasses

Strong magnifying reading eyeglasses enable a person with severe visual impairment to read fine print.

5. Tele-Microscopic Glasses

Tele-microscopic lenses are mounted on top of eyeglass lenses and may be prescribed for one or both eyes. They allow people with low vision to read, write, use a computer, and perform other tasks at a comfortable distance.

6. Text to voice devices.

There are a range of devices available, like the OrCam Read that can recognize text from books, phone screens, computer monitors, and more and can convert that text to computer voice. There are also apps (such as Audible) that can be added to smart devices which can read a multitude of material out loud to you.

Non-optical, “Adaptive” Low vision Aids

For the visually impaired, something as simple as checking the time on their watch or being able to see the difference between a one-dollar bill and a ten-dollar bill can become a difficult chore.

In addition to low vision devices, inexpensive non-optical adaptive aids can assist with routine daily activities. These devices include:

  • Large-print cookbooks
  • Large-numbered playing cards, clocks, telephones, and watches
  • Electronic “talking” clocks, kitchen timers, thermometers, blood pressure meters and even pill bottles
  • Large felt-tip pens and wide-lined paper for writing notes
  • Wallets that separate different bill denominations into different pockets
  • Color-coded pill boxes
  • Voice-recording electronic organizers
  • Signature guides

ILA has close to 200 products available for purchase that can enhance your ability to read/hear what has been written. These items range from lighting, magnified reading glasses, and large print items to more advance electronic devices such as CCTVs, portable magnifiers, and computers. To see everything in this broad category on their website click on reading.

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