Assistive Technology for Visually Impaired Individuals: What to Choose and How
Last updated: August 27, 2021
Assistive technology can help improve the functional capabilities of individuals living with visual disabilities. In this article, we go through the different types of assistive technologies, their applications, and how they compare. Read on to learn about which low vision assistive technologies and high-tech visual aids might be right for your unique needs – or those of someone you care about.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology refers to products, devices, and equipment used to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals living with a visual disability.
Assistive technology can refer to a more specific subset of low vision aids, although they can sometimes be used interchangeably. Low vision aids can include optical and non-optical aids that are typically not electronic, assistive technology can refer to a broad range of electronic or technology devices and technology tools. These could include electronic books, screen magnification programs, screen reading software, listening device, and even advanced head-mounted eyewear displays.
The Importance of Assistive Technology
Assistive technology promotes independence by helping individuals regain the ability to complete tasks that they were formerly unable to complete or had difficulty accomplishing.
In the case of persons who are blind or visually impaired, it can mean a lot. Read a menu at a restaurant, play with your child, go to the grocery store, move around freely, simply go about your life.
High-Tech vs Low-Tech
There is no formal differentiation between the two, but of course, low-tech generally refers to the technology that does not require any power source while high-tech usually requires a power source.
Low tech technology might include anything from a large font size book to braille, raised lines guide, telescopes, or magnifying glass.
High-tech would typically include a variety of apps from different operating systems, text to speech technology, video magnifiers, smartphones, CCTV, or electronic glasses like eSight.
Types of Low Vision Aids
There are different categories of assistive technologies based on the function that they serve. These categories include reading assistance, mobility devices, and all-in-one technologies.
Audiobooks and electronic books
When talking about audiobooks, a service like Audible will allow users to listen to a book. Electronic books, like the Kindle, allow the reader to adjust the content’s text size and the contrast of the page. A great tool for consuming information and all your learning needs.
Smartphones, tablets, and computers
Most smartphones, tablets, or any other computer screen are customizable to increase accessibility for people with different visual abilities. This also includes your tv screen. For example, users can increase the size of text, alter the colors of the screen, and use voice commands to access apps and other useful functions. On the App Store and Google Play Store, there are also downloadable apps designated for persons who are visually impaired to help them connect with accessible tools, magnify documents, screen readers, and more.
A computer program or software can assist by reading text out loud to the user, or magnifying text and images on the screen. Low vision users can also opt to buy a larger monitor or television screen to improve visibility. In addition, some websites have accessibility features tailored to doing all these things. Underline links, create high or negative contrast, give it a try, it is on our website!
Top Low vision apps and software
- VoiceOver is an industry‑leading screen reader that describes exactly what’s happening on a device, which can help persons with vision impairment to more easily navigate on-screen.
- LookTel Money Reader instantly recognizes currency and speaks the denomination aloud, enabling people experiencing visual impairments to quickly and easily identify and count bills.
- TapTapSee is designed to help persons who are blind or visually impaired identify objects they encounter in their daily lives. Simply double-tap the screen and take a photo of anything, at any angle. You’ll hear the app speak the identification back to you.
Mobility devices help individuals blind or visually impaired improve their mobility and orientation in order to accomplish their daily tasks. Current low-tech mobility devices, such as walking canes, can help people with visual impairment increase their mobility but do not help in other aspects of daily life.
All-in-one assistive technology is designed to keep mobility in mind while also enhancing vision and empowering individuals daily to live an independent life.
All-in-one Assistive Technology
All-in-one assistive technologies can help in almost all aspects of life in which vision is involved. It can serve as reading assistance as well as help with mobility. By getting technological advancements to work in favor of healthcare, people who are blind or visually impaired can gain back their overall lifestyle in an innovative way. You can think of these new types of assistive devices as a headset or a pair of electronic glasses that can stimulate your lost vision capabilities.
Ultimately, this technology strives to make life more accessible for persons with visual impairment.
Consider eSight: an FDA-approved and clinically validated device that is proven to enhance vision up to 6/6 or 20/20. eSight empowers individuals who have visual impairments to regain visual function, which can enable them to participate in activities of daily living however they wish.
Choosing the Right Assistive Device
The “right” visual assistive technology is subjective and depends on the needs of each individual.
For example, a student returning to school would require assistive technology that can help them do a wide variety of things like accessing content and reading the information present in textbooks, participate in virtual assessments, and contribute in class. A student would need assistive technology that can give them access to all the resources others can use to fulfill their learning needs.
However, older adults may desire assistive technology that enables them to connect and engage with their families and community. Playing games with friends or never miss watching their favorite show on tv.
For others, it may be that they want to improve their visual perception in order to be more active and play sports. Evidently, the right assistive device is context-dependent, keeping in mind the unique needs of each individual.
So, what do you want to be able to do?
Mobility, Reading, or All-In-One Assistive Technologies
In summary, choosing the appropriate assistive technology is case-dependent on needs, frequency of use, and freedom the individual needs when using the device.
Electronic glasses like eSight would allow the user to enhance their remaining vision and regain their independence, as they do not restrict mobility and also are helpful for a wide range of tasks. By placing a display in front of the user’s eyes paired with a high-tech camera and advanced software that stimulates otherwise lost capabilities, users can greatly improve their vision and everything that better vision would give them access to.
The most popular all-in-one technology on the market is eSight: a clinically validated device used daily by thousands of people who are legally blind or visually impaired. eSight can enhance the wearer’s functional vision to as much as 20/20.
Award-Winning Assistive Technology
eSight has been recognized as the best wearable healthcare hardware/software device of 2021 by the Tech Ascension Awards, which honors companies that develop innovative technology in their respective industry. The device looks like a pair of glasses, except they include high tech designed to improve vision beyond a simple lens. Tech Ascension Awards are determined considering technology innovation and uniqueness, market research (analyst reports, media coverage, and customer case studies), hard performance stats, and competitive differentiators. eSight’s Tech Ascension Award proved that this technology solves critical challenges and produces invaluable outcomes for the user.
Clinically Validated and Endorsed by Medical Professionals
eSight is a Class 1 Medical Device worn daily by thousands of people with vision impairment and legal blindness. Through the eSight Quality of Life Efficacy Study (eQUEST), eSight technology has been clinically validated to help patients, noting:
- A 7 line gain in distance acuity
- 100% mobility retention
- 12 letter contrast improvement
- Improved quality of life
eQUEST was conducted with the help of six partners: the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the Center for Retina and Macular Disease, John Hopkins University, the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, the University Health Network, and the University of Montreal.
eSight vs Other Low Vision Assistive Technology
Why do people choose eSight as their everyday assistive technology? What advantage does it have over other options in the market?
eSight offers higher mobility compared to other similar head-mounted devices on the market. It is lightweight, designed to be worn all day with a flexible comfort band, and has a patented Bioptic TiltTM that allows for full movement while wearing a helmet.
Ease of Control
Every eSight device comes with an easy-to-use remote control that allows the user to quickly adjust what they see. This customizability allows for maximum vision improvement for each individual’s unique needs.
Settings such as brightness, focus, contrast, and zoom can all be customized. This means that users can easily switch from near and far-sighted activities such as reading and watching TV and indoor and outdoor modes.
Coaching and Support
All eSight users are invited to work with a certified eSight coach, who is also legally blind or visually impaired and uses eSight. Coaches are experts at helping users discover amazing features on their new eSight screens and aim to help each person to maximize their eSight experience. Training on your new equipment helps get familiar with the tech quickly!
People using eSight can benefit from accessing the #eSightTogether community. #eSightTogether is eSight’s unique response to the pandemic: an online community for people with vision impairment to access COVID-19 related resources, connect with each other and share inspirational stories. Bi-weekly coffee chats are hosted by eSight representatives and coaches, to encourage people with vision impairment to come together to chat, learn, and share. Special sessions by influencers like Sam Seavey of The Blind Life and Mary Mammoliti of Kitchen Confession are also on the agenda.
Easy Home Testing
Getting started with eSight is simple and easy to navigate. Home testing is conducted through the following steps:
- Connect with an eSight Advisor to see if eSight is right for you.
- Get your eSight by mail within a week.
- Learn the technology from eSight expert advisors in the comfort of your living space.
- Send the device back if you don’t wish to keep it.
Living with Visual Impairment
eSight is sleek and portable. It is designed to optimize mobility, whether you’re at home or on the go. The patented Bioptic TiltTM technology, made possible by eSight’s uniquely non-immersive design, allows users to be mobile and easily adapt.David Lee was able to resume curling again, and even won a curling championship while wearing his eSight.
Studying in School
eSight’s leading-edge camera, liquid lens, and high definition display powered by smart algorithms means that you can experience clear, enhanced vision like never before.Drue Collins used eSight throughout her undergraduate studies to clearly see the board, her textbook, models in her drawing class, and even her friends waving at her from across campus.
Returning to Work
eSight is easy to use. The remote control allows you to put visual independence at your fingertips for the first time. Whether in a whiteboard brainstorming session, working on your laptop, or joining a sunny social work event, eSight’s adjustable focus, contrast, brightness, and zoom mean that your clarity of vision will never be compromised.Jennifer Melanson is a special education assistant who does a lot of different activities each day with her students. eSight’s simple vision control system allows her to focus on her job, rather than her sight.
What does assistive technology mean?
Assistive technology refers to any product, device, or equipment used to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
Can vision for individuals with legal blindness be restored?
Sometimes, but not always. It depends on the cause of vision impairment, and although most causes of legal blindness are irreversible, the person’s sight can be enhanced with the right assistive device.
What causes visual impairment?
Visual impairment has many causes and can be congenital or acquired after birth. The most common causes of visual impairment are Macular Degeneration, Cataract, Glaucoma, Amblyopia, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Retinal Detachment, and Traumatic Brain Injury.
How can technology help the visually impaired?
Thanks to modern technology, people with vision loss can participate in daily activities with minimal impairment. A number of high-tech devices can help people with visual impairment to live without limitations. In particular, all-in-one technologies such as eSight can improve overall vision, mobility, and ease of control.
What tools exist for visually impaired students?
There are various options for learners with visual impairment. Some of them include JAWS screen reader, Kurzweil education, Refreshable Braille displays, and all-in-one technologies that allow for mobility while giving reading capabilities and more.
What products exist for visually impaired older adults?
There are many low-tech visual aids that can help older adults with visual impairment, such as magnifying glasses, a long cane, glasses, optoelectronic reading systems (i.e., video magnifier), large-print books, audiobooks, a touch watch, a phone with enlarged buttons, books in Braille, and walking aids. High-tech devices such as eSight technology also exist and act as a full visual aid and will allow for mobility improvement.