In the past, the optometrists at Pierce Family Vision have referred visually impaired patients to the UW School of Optometry Low Vision Clinic or the CNIB/Vision Loss Rehabilitation for both low tech and high tech assistance. We can now also give families some newer options to consider beyond spectacles:
- The Pebble is a hand held video magnifier with variable magnification levels. They are available online new for $595 CAD at Canadian Assistive Technology or older used versions for less than $200 on Ebay. We have an older version at our office now for demonstration purposes. Larger Merlin type CCTV reading machines are available and the Assistive Devices Program can help pay for equipment.
- Described Video for cable television allows access to a second stream of audio, which describes non-verbal actions in a program. Both Rogers and Bell can be contacted to set this up at no extra charge. (similar to CC-Closed Captioning for the hard of hearing).
- Amazon Alexa/Echo or Google Nest– These voice activated devices can be very helpful for visually impaired patients who can ask the device to play music, give time/date/weather/news information, set reminders for appointments or medication, call family members, doctors or stores hands free, or just to ask for the answer to a question. They can also be used to dictate emails or texts to friends or family members.
- Books on tape have now been replaced with apps like Audible which give selections of audiobooks and podcasts that can be paired with Alexa/Echo for voice command access.
- Amazon Fire TV Cube can be used to have voice control of the television. Just ask Alexa to turn on the TV and play your show.
- Smart phones have built-in voice activated assistance including Siri for Iphones, Bixby for Samsung devices, and Google Assistant for most other Android devices. The app Seeing AI uses the device camera to identify people and objects, and then the app audibly describes those objects for people with visual impairment.
- There are various screen reader applications that read text on a screen out loud, or even convert text to braille. These include JAWS for Windows which is a yearly $95 subscription and NVDA which is a free program. Both Windows and Apple also have sophisticated, built-in screen readers that come with the computer operating system. For more information, please visit the CNIB website.
Feel free to share this with anyone that could benefit from these tips!
Dr. Manvit Singh