Washington D.C.: Low vision magnifiers and aids are good at helping patients see the world clearly, but a recent study has revealed that there's a better solution in town.
Many of older adults with age-related vision loss turn to adaptive devices designed to magnify objects and text, but these devices can be prohibitively expensive, uni-functional and bulky.
Enter the iPad: a technological device that's relatively cheap, serves many purposes, is smaller than most books, and as per the Concordia University study, is just as effective a visual aid as traditional devices.
For the study, the team recruited 100 participants who ranged in age from 24 to 97. A little over half the participants had age-related macular degeneration, a disease characterized by the deterioration of the small central portion of the retina that is normally responsible for fine detailed vision tasks such as reading.
They used questionnaires and tests to gauge participants' visual ability, and then compared the Apple iPad versus two traditionally used magnification devices, to see if reading rates varied across devices.
"Unsurprisingly, we found that most participants found it hard to read small and medium text, while nearly a quarter of them reported that reading large text was much easier," says first author Elliott Morrice.
"What was interesting to note was that it didn't matter what technology was used to do the magnification: an iPad worked just as well as a traditional device like a closed circuit television system (CCTV)," he says.
Morrice noted that when they took previous experience into account, they found that participants who had used iPads before read on average 30 words per minute faster than those who were using the iPad for the first time. But there were no significant differences in the reading rates of participants who had previous experience using the CCTV, compared to the reading rates of first-time CCTV users.
Tablet computers offer many of the same benefits while being socially acceptable, said senior author Aaron Johnson, adding "What's more, compared to the devices currently used by those with low vision, iPads are multi-functional, allowing the user to go online, check email, make video calls and they cost less than the traditional devices. This cost saving can be both to the individual, and if appropriate, to the insurance companies that may provide individuals with assistive devices.
The study appears in Good Times Magazine.