New technology


…. advances in consumer electronics are also improving quality of life for people with low vision.

E-readers. The Kindle® , the iPad® and other electronic readers (e-readers) are portable and more affordable alternatives to the CCTV. E-readers can be used on-the-go and can be one-tenth the price of CCTVs in some instances. The Kindle and the iPad allow the user to adjust the font size and contrast settings of the display. Both have text-to-speech functionality and can read aloud to the user. It’s important to keep in mind that e-readers don’t offer the same level of magnification as CCTVs and will not meet the needs of everyone with low vision. For example, be sure the display of the device works for your contrast sensitivity. Not all e-readers offer reversed-polarity (white letters on black background) displays, which reduce glare and may be easier to read for some people.

Smartphones and tablets

Both Apple- and Android-based smartphones and tablets offer a range of apps and built-in functions to help people with low vision:

Magnify. iRead, iLoupe, and Magnify use your device’s camera and light source to magnify and illuminate text. While these apps won’t match the power of a CCTV, they’re portable, less-expensive alternatives for those who need some level of magnification. Browse your Apple or Android app store for pricing and availability.

Smart money. EyeNote is a free app available for Apple products that scans and identifies the denomination of U.S. paper money by reading aloud or emitting an ascending number of beeps or pulsed vibrations for each bill.

SightBook. This free app digitally communicates your vision changes to your ophthalmologist by measuring your visual function with a set of near vision tests. Significant changes in vision are recorded and then sent wirelessly to your doctor. The app is free and available on iTunes. Visit for more information to share with your Eye M.D.

MapQuest. Available for Apple and Android phones, the MapQuest app provides voice-guided directions and tells the driver when to turn. If you make a wrong turn, MapQuest will re-route you automatically.

Voice interface. Siri, the voice recognition system on the iPhone 4S, can be a helpful low-vision aid as it allows the user to check the weather, email, or their calendar without having to visually navigate a series of icons. Android-based phones also have voice-recognition capability allowing the user to dictate texts or emails without having to type.

These new advances in consumer technology are not a cure-all for those with low vision. Many people will need additional devices and aids along with the assistance of their vision rehabilitation specialist to achieve best possible vision. However, for many people, these digital devices and apps offer more options for portable, lower-cost low vision aids.