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New Technologies to Brighten Low Vision

from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

Assistive devices for people with low vision have come a long way since the days of clunky magnifying lamps and magnifying glasses. New technologies can help you see better, increase your independence and help you conduct transactions online from the comfort of your home. Here are several devices you might want to try.

  • Desktop video magnifiers/closed circuit television (CCTV) units. One popular option for people with low vision is video magnification. A stationary video camera takes an image of whatever you put under it or point it at. The image is then projected onto a video monitor. Desktop video magnifiers are ideal for reading and writing.
  • Hand-held magnification. For true magnification on the go, consider a handheld digital magnifier or portable CCTV. A portable CCTV or digital magnifier fits in your pocket or purse and is ideal for activities such as inspecting food labels in the supermarket, picking items from a menu or reading in the park. Simply place the camera in the device over what you want to read and the camera will transmit an image to a digital screen on the front. With the press of a button you can increase or decrease magnification, enhance the contrast or freeze the image you're viewing.
  • Text-to-speech scanning and playback. If your vision is very poor and reading isn't an option, consider purchasing a text-to-speech scanner. You can connect the scanner to your computer, use it with your cell phone or use it on its own. Simply place the reading material under the camera of the scanning device and the device will read the print out loud for you.
  • Computer programs. With the help of special computer programs that provide magnification and speech output, computers can be a boon for people with low vision. Not only can you enlarge text when surfing the Internet or have an email read to you, you can use these features to order groceries and other items online, refill prescriptions and complete banking transactions.
  • E-readers. To enjoy books, newspapers and magazines, consider an e-reader. Unlike with digital magnifiers, you don't have to hold the device over your reading material. When reading, you can make the text larger, zoom in on images and make the screen brighter. Some e-book readers can even read aloud to you.
  • Tablets and phones. Computer tablets and smartphones come with cameras, voice recognition software and other built-in features for the visually impaired. With the right training, you might find that a tablet or smartphone meets many of your needs conveniently in one device.

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