It is estimated that over seven million Americans suffer from some kind of visual impairment. The causes of such impairment can be many and varied, including injury, macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, or another form of eye disease.
Fortunately, there are many vision impaired aids available on the market that can make life easier for people with visual impairments of various levels of severity.
Here are just some of the ones that we think are the best.
The DaVinci Pro is a 3-in-1 portable CCTV video magnifier and is one of the best vision impaired aids currently on the market. CCTV (or closed-circuit television) devices are deceptively simple gadgets. At their core, they are a high-resolution camera, hooked up to a video display unit.
The camera points at the item you wish to read, and the image is displayed on the monitor in magnified form. With an 18” display area and a wide field of vision, the DaVinci Pro is an excellent choice. As well as its CCTV capabilities, it also functions as an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) reader.
These digitize text (even handwritten text) and convert it into an audio file that plays back to the user. Effectively, the device narrates what you’re reading back to you in real-time. Easy to use for both novices and experts, it is an ideal tool for anyone who has issues with their vision.
The Ruby XL HD is an electronic video magnifier with a snug 5” screen that makes it easy to slip into a bag or pocket, for use when needed. Of the many vision impaired aids on the market, this is perhaps the most discreet and the most convenient for portable use.
With a built-in HD camera and a rechargeable battery life of three hours, the operation is a simple matter of pointing and reading the enlarged image on the screen.
It is capable of up to 14x magnification, and is small enough to whip out when it’s needed – for reading price tags, menus, labels… whatever you need.
The Topaz Desktop Video Magnifier is an impressive looking device for any home or office user requiring vision impaired aids. Even larger than the DaVinci Pro, its 24” screen allows for a large, high-magnification image of any document you’re reading.
High contrast graphics make for an easier reading experience, and it also comes with its own OCR software and speech capabilities.
The machine will allow you to switch between reading it yourself or having the Topaz narrate for you at the touch of a button.
While not the most technologically-advanced vision impaired aid, the Eye-Pal Solo makes this list by virtue of being so easy to use.
So easy, in fact, that it doesn’t even come with buttons. Looking a little like a desk lamp, you simply unfold the camera, place your reading material on the base, and let the Eye-Pal Solo read for you.
If you wish, you can even hook it up to a monitor or your own television at home to be able to view a magnified version of what you’re reading.
A compact and lightweight device, it’s ideal for the traveler, fitting neatly into a suitcase or holdall, and easily operated.
We include this device in the list for one very good reason – its functionality. As well as the HD camera magnification and quality OCR capabilities you would expect from any of today’s vision impaired aids, the Transformer HD comes equipped with its own Wi-Fi.
This means that users can connect with their other home and office devices over the wireless network, You can read your project notes through your Transformer HD and then transfer them instantly to your iPad or Android device at the click of a button for further use.
This is a remarkable facility for students and professionals with vision impairments. Its one-page OCR function (that is, it can scan and read a whole page at a time) only adds to its appeal.
The Merlin Ultra is the last of the desktop CCTV devices in our list, and yet is one of the best, particularly for those who do not consider themselves to be technologically gifted.
The setup and the operation of the Merlin Ultra is wonderfully simple, and the machine has proven to be especially popular among seniors and retirees. Whilst there are greater depths to its functionality for those who wish to dig for them, the Merlin Ultra was constructed with the completion of simple tasks in mind.
Its 24” HD screen allows users to see text and images with full magnification and crystal clarity.
Its camera mounting leaves plenty of room for any user wishing to use the device for writing as well as reading, be it a greetings card, a shopping list or anything else. You’ll be able to see your handwriting magnified to a readable size before your eyes.
We’ve talked about CCTV, we’ve talked about video magnifiers, and we’ve talked about OCR readers. Now let’s talk about the future of vision-impaired aids: wearables.
These devices – such as the NuEyes – are often called SmartGlasses and are the ultimate in unobtrusive vision impaired aids. Put simply, the NuEyes is a headset that can be worn hands-free, and which is around the same size as a regular pair of sunglasses.
Built into this headset are all the advantages you would expect from bulkier and less portable devices. This includes a magnification facility of up to 12x and OCR capabilities that will narrate text to you, as you look at it.
As technology improves, products like the NuEyes and its competitors will only get more streamlined.
A handheld OCR reader, the ScanMarker is easily the most portable gadget in this round-up, and perhaps the most versatile.
Boasting a wealth of options for general use, such as translation services and a remarkable text-to-file conversion facility that lets you transform any document to an editable word processor file, the device has some unique properties of benefit to vision impaired users.
You can scan a line of text with the handheld reader, and it will give an audible reading to you in real time as you move the ScanMarker across and down the page as if following the text with a finger.
You can pause, rewind, and repeat the audio as you go, so there is no danger of missing some salient factor plot point on the way. Even better, the ScanMarker is not limited to printed text, being quite capable of recognizing most handwritten pieces, or electronic files such as PDFs.
As you can see from this small sampling, there are many vision impaired aids on the market, enough to find one that will suit your own specific needs.
As innovations in optical technology continue to move apace, who knows what advancements the future is likely to bring?