There are four different types of low vision aids: magnifiers, reading machines, computer assisted technologies, and talking appliances. These devices are being improved all the time, taking advantage of the latest in computer technology developments. As the cost of health care increases, it becomes more important for everyone to maintain their independence as long as possible.
People who have reduced vision due to eye diseases, glaucoma, or other eye-related illnesses use low vision aids. People with low vision are not clinically blind but have a very limited amount of vision. It is important to explore all the technology and tools available to encourage continuing independence.
The magnifiers available range from hand-held units to video magnification systems. The amount of magnification varies widely, from 20 to 80 times the current size. This type of low vision aid is portable, light, and can be used to read menus, directions, and more.
Video magnification systems use a scanner to highlight the text. It is then displayed on a video screen at a much greater level of magnification. Users can use the computer mouse or keyboard to move the magnification screen across the materials. This option is suitable for reading materials in the user's home. This tool can also be used to read large books, the newspaper, or weekly brochures.
Reading machines translate text into an audio file. The documents are placed in the scanner and the computer program reads the image on the screen and creates a sound file that can be played on an MP3 player. This method is a great option for textbooks or other nonfiction books. The only downside is the need to scan every page.
Computer assisted technologies include alarm clocks that announce the time, memory disks that allow the user to record and replay a short message, and sensors for cups and plates to indicate temperature and liquid level. All these tools use computer chips and electronics to provide the service required.
Other computer enhanced, low vision aids include talking watches, modified sporting equipment, running aids, and voice activated key finders. Many people who use low vision aids also require mobility assistance. Talking canes, voice activated wheelchairs, and modified chair lifts can provide the assistance required.
Other options include a home management system that acts as a personal assistant. Upon the user's arrival, the system automatically plays all voice messages, information about weather, house temperature and alarm system status. The user can interact with the system using audio controls for voice dialing, turning lights on or off, and recording reminders.