Reading when you're visually impaired

Posted by Luke Scriven on 12/18/2018
When you have a visual impairment, it may seem that you will never be able to read again, and that can be a bitter pill to swallow. We rely on reading every day - whether it is reading for practical purposes such as reading our mail and reading restaurant menus, or reading for pleasure such as books and magazines. That's why reading is the number one thing that people come to us for help with in The Chicago Lighthouse's Assistive Technology Center. Luckily, there are a number of different devices available to help with this very problem!

When it comes to reading there are two main avenues to look into - electronic magnification and optical character recognition/text-to-speech (OCR/TTS). The first relies on magnification and contrast enhancement to help you to read documents yourself. The second uses a technology which is able to read printed text aloud to you. Which one is better will depend on your preferences and the level of your vision loss, and it may be that you use both depending on what you're reading and how tired your eyes are. 

An example of some electronic magnifiers are the Humanware Explore 5 and the Acrobat Ultra HD. These two devices represent two different types of electronic magnifiers - a handheld device which can be taken out and is great for use in the store or at a restaurant, and a desktop device which is great for use when reading larger documents at home, such as a book or newspaper. With these devices, the larger the screen is the greater the amount of text you will fit on the screen, and therefore the more comfortable they are to use for extended reading. With that in mind, if you love to read then a larger desktop machine may be a better fit. Many people will use both a handheld and a desktop - one for when they are on the go, and the other for when they are at home.

Some OCR/TTS devices are the Orcam and the Magnilink Voice, both of which are able to take a picture of a page of printed text and read it aloud to you. Whether you want to read books, magazines, newspapers or your mail, these devices are able to handdle it. Bear in mind though, they can't read handwriting and can struggle with documents that have more complex formatting (for example bills). That being said, they are a great way to read longer documents without tiring your eyes. You can even get electronic magnification devices that also have OCR/TTS capabilities such as the Davinci Pro!

There is a solution for your needs out there, and we can help you get reading again in no time. Call us at 1-800-919-3375 to get unbiased information on any of our products. 
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