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Low Vision Aids and Adaptive Technology

Low vision aids are devices that help a person with a visual disability function to the best of their ability. These devices can be high powered spectacles, optical aids (e.g. magnifiers) or electronic aids (e.g. CCTVs).
Low vision aids such as magnifiers and Electronic Magnifying Units (CCTVs) are easier to learn while vision is still reasonably good.

There is a range of aids which include:
High powered spectacles
These are the simplest and most effective low vision aids in early cases of MD. Stronger reading glasses improve vision by making you hold the book closer and effectively magnifying the size of the print. Some people find the close working distances of high powered readers uncomfortable and prefer to use standard magnifiers.

Optical low vision aids
Optical aids include a large range of magnifiers (e.g. hand, stand, head-mounted, bar, visuolette). These are the most commonly prescribed low vision aids, are relatively inexpensive and in most cases very useful. A low vision assessment is needed to help provide you with the low vision aid that best suits your condition.

Magnification and a bit more light can help in performing activities such as reading. The Luxo Magnifying Lamps are ideal. It is a freestanding magnifier with lamp which allows free hands while performing various tasks.

Electronic Magnifying Units (CCTVs)
While optical aids are easy to carry and useful in many situations, they can be difficult to use and restricted in the amount of print that can be seen.

Electronic magnification units (commonly called CCTVs) can enlarge text onto a screen with a high level of magnification. The size of the print can be enlarged or reduced and contrast improved using a zoom control. The Electronic Magnifying Unit can be a highly useful aid for people with visual disability. These units come in a range of different types from hand held (with a small screen) to a portable and larger unit (placed on a table).
 
A range of Electronic Magnifying Units (CCTVs) can be found at the following websites:

Quantum RLV
Humanware
Low Vision Gateway

Reading Machines
Reading Machines have been developed that can scan printed text, convert it to digital information and then talk the text out over a loudspeaker. A range of reading machines can be found at the following websites:

Quantum RLV
Humanware
Low Vision Gateway

Computer Software
Computers can also now speak text that is shown on their screens. Computers also have virtual magnifiers that can be dragged over the screen. This software can be found in Windows XP.
In the Control Panel the ‘Speech’ icon will provide Text-to-Speech options. The most commonly used text enlarging software is ZoomText. The most commonly used screen readers are Dragon Naturally Speaking and JAWS. The Disability Discrimination Acts of the US, UK and Australia require that all computers have accessibility software in their System programs.
A range of software can be found at the following websites:

Quantum RLV
Humanware
Low Vision Gateway.

Talking Books
Talking Books are audio tapes or CDs with narration of books or newspapers and can be provided a no charge from the Blind Society in your state.

The Navigator
A new aspect of Talking Books is the audio Read Navigator (www.audio-read.com.au/hardware.htm).
The MD Foundation is presently implementing a major program with libraries and the MD community using the Navigator device.

Training and Review
Patience is the key word when it comes to adjusting to low vision devices. It takes time and practice to master the use of any new piece of equipment. If prescribed a low vision device, insist on being trained in its use. If you find it hard to use after a while, go back to the low vision specialist for a new assessment. Needs can change, perhaps because of a new hobby or because vision has deteriorated. Low vision rehabilitation is an ongoing process so the device given when first diagnosed with MD may no longer be adequate. Many of the Electronic Magnifying Units and software have obligation free trials.

Daily living aids
Daily living aids that can be bought without prescription include:
  • Large button phones
  • Large print books, address books, diaries, crosswords etc
  • Liquid level indicator, which hangs on the lip of a cup and beeps to alert you to stop pouring
  • Large playing cards
  • Talking clocks and watches
  • Coin/money sorter
  • Large print pill box
  • Hand held torch
  • ‘VIP Vision Impaired Person’ badge
  • Magnified makeup mirrors
  • Writing guides and bold-lined paper.
  • Voice recorders
Other important ways to access information and be part of the community are the telephone, radio and television. Large button and auto dial telephones are very useful. Sitting close to the television may enable better viewing of the TV. Radio is a very easy way to stay in touch with the world. There are excellent stations that read newspapers at particular times of the day.

For more information on low vision aids and adaptive technology in your State view the publication Low Vision-A Guideon the MD Foundation website.

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