About 90% of the clientele of the charitable organization formerly known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) are affected by vision loss that can’t be corrected with glasses. Fortunately, there are devices and techniques that can help people who live with the condition, and the iPad is one of them.
The condition, known as low vision, is more common than total blindness. A group of researchers led by Walter Wittich at Montreal’s MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre is testing whether iPads work as well as CCTVs as a reading aid for those who live with low vision.
So far, says Aaron Johnson, a member of the research team, “we’ve found there’s no difference in reading rates” between the two. The investigators hope to recruit more participants (to date, they’ve tested about 100) to find out whether iPads are useful for everyone who requires magnification (or if, for example, people with a more severe impairment might do better with CCTV) and test how effective they are for other routine tasks, such as reading a prescription label on a medicine bottle, looking up a number in a telephone book, and scanning a restaurant menu.
The iPad or iPhone can be useful to those who don’t have enough vision to read. As one patient cited by Good Times points out, “the iPad reads for me.” If this technology had been available earlier, he says, he probably wouldn’t have been forced to shutter one business and completely reinvent his livelihood.