|The SmartLux Digital Portable Magnifier from Eschenbach allows people to read wherever they want.|
|The electronic eyeglasses from eSight can help those with significant vision loss, even up to 20/1200 vision.|
|Pebble HD from Enhanced Vision features a new camera for clear, high-definition pictures.|
Advances in optical and electronic magnification enable people with impaired vision to adapt so they can return to activities they enjoy.
Patients with vision loss experience difficulties with visual acuity, peripheral vision or sometimes a combination of both. Contrast loss and related glare issues can also impair vision and pose problems that impede use of remaining functional vision. Patients with vision loss face challenges on several levels””daily living, job responsibilities and engaging in hobbies may require adaptation, which can lead to frustration, abandonment of cherished activities and ultimately, depression. However, new developments in assistive technology and consumer electronics have had a dramatic effect on low vision rehabilitation results.
Optical devices, such as handheld magnifiers and stand magnifiers, have been the mainstay to enhance vision for individuals with visual impairments. The range of magnification these implements offer are vast, and illuminated options allow for improved lighting and contrast while using these devices. Based on a patient”™s current vision and visual goals, appropriate near devices can be prescribed and with proper training can help ameliorate visual deficits. While the range of optical devices for near tasks is vast, intermediate and distance tasks usually require prescription of a telescope.
There are some limitations, however. Increased power in optical devices decreases field of view. Additionally, higher powers are accompanied by aberrations and decreased depth of focus, which can also limit enjoyment of the use of these devices. With the advent of integrating technology into vision rehabilitation, patients have an option when limitations of optical devices prove difficult.
CLOSED CIRCUIT TELEVISION (CCTV)
Assistive technology for people who are blind or visually impaired has seen advancements in recent years. Gone are the systems that only allow for basic black and white contrast enhancement and limited magnification.
Desktop CCTVs were the pioneers in electronic magnification and the basis for the systems we use today. Initially, contrast enhancement was limited to reverse polarity where the system converted the white background to black. While that strategy still exists, improvements on the initial designs of CCTVs have made the devices even more useful for patients with impaired vision. Flat screens have replaced glass screens that had reflections and glares. Contrast enhancement strategies include traditional black and white technologies but have expanded into offering all the colors and saturations of a rainbow for patients to design their own contrast settings.
Some newer models have cameras whose focus can be adapted for distance viewing, which is helpful for children in school classrooms or individuals who attend meetings and presentations. Another new feature of some desk CCTVs is optical character recognition. These units allow the user to convert their CCTV to a true “reading machine,” where the camera takes a photo of a page and a processor coverts the letters on the screen to a computerized voice that reads aloud text on the screen.
Patients who were reliant on contrast enhancement often struggled when away from their home desk system. Fortunately, with the development and advances in designing portable options, patients now have more to choose from. Some of the more common units available are the Zoomax Snow and Zoomax HD 7 (distributed by Irie-AT), Pebble HD from Enhanced Vision, SmartLux Digital Portable Magnifier from Eschenbach and Ruby from Freedom Scientific.
For patients who require both distance and near magnification, wearable devices are available. The electronic eyeglasses from eSight feature HDMI technology that provides contrast enhancement as well as a range of magnification to approximately 14X. The hands-free portable device is easy to use and beneficial for people who have significant vision loss, even up to 20/1200 vision.
OrCam wearable technology provides auditory feedback to visually impaired individuals. It utilizes a special camera that transmits information to a receiver which converts the visual information into an auditory format. Labels, documents and other images can be quickly and efficiently converted into spoken words.
Smartphones and tablets are now produced with accessibility options that can modify each device so it is easier to use for people with low vision. For visual enhancement, settings can be adjusted to allow magnification or contrast enhancement. Personal scheduling features can help individuals circumnavigate small display screens, schedule appointments and navigate web searches. For patients with mobility issues, maps using global positioning systems provide auditory instructions for people who are walking, taking public transportation or traveling roads and highways. Additionally, apps for money recognition, color identification and those designed to help with multiple activities of daily living can be downloaded to enhance the use of consumer electronics.
Most computers now have accessibility features, such as a built-in magnifier and contrast enhancement settings. When visually impaired individuals need magnification beyond what these devices allow, computer programs such as ZoomText can be downloaded to allow for an even greater range of magnification and contrast enhancement. Simple additions such as larger computer screens and large-print keyboards can be added to ease the use of home computers.
Patients who experience vision loss benefit greatly from low vision rehabilitation. With advances in technology, visually impaired patients now have more options to visually enhance their daily lives and maintain independence.
Karen Squier, OD, FAAO, is in private practice in Memphis, TN.
WHERE TO FIND IT:
888.811.3161 | enhancedvision.com
Eschenbach Optik of America, Inc.
800.487.5389 | eschenbach.com
855.837.4448 | esighteyewear.com
800.444.4443 | freedomscientific.com
888-308-0059 | irie-at.com