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With the increasing number of adults with low vision, advancements in low vision technologies are progressing alongside, meeting rapidly growing low vision needs with visual aid innovation.
The necessity for vision assist aids is rising among adults whose low vision needs have increased over the recent years. The National Eye Institute has been conducting studies surrounding adult U.S. residents with low vision. These studies include exploration of the current number of individuals with low vision divided into brackets of age range and include the projected rise of low vision affected adults in 2020. The National Eye Institute presently reported 278,000 low vision adults between the ages of 40’s-50’s with a substantially larger number of 840,000 low vision adults ranging within the ages of 60’s to 70’s. As the studies note the number of low vision adults to be increasing, the projected low vision statistic provided by the NEI (National Eye Institute) for the year 2020 is 1 in 28 adults, equaling 5.5 million low vision individuals living in the U.S.
Understanding Low Vision
Low vision is described as vision impairment unable to be corrected by the use of regular glasses, contact lenses, medications, or surgical procedures. While millions of Americans will experience age related or “normal vision loss” due to the natural aging of the eye, not all individuals encountering “normal vision loss” will develop low vision. Noted by the NEI, individuals who develop low vision are often the result of health and medical conditions. Health conditions known to affect vision are those such as eye disease, macular degeneration, diabetes, cataract and glaucoma. Not excluded from low vision causes, eye injury and birth defects are also among the low vision contributors. Though studies and medical procedure advancements continue to progress it is currently uncommon to completely restore (in whole) the visual ability of a visually impaired eye. Rehabilitation programs for low vision have been developed to assist in restoring partial vision for individuals with the possibility of low vision improvement. Seeking the guidance of a qualified Vision Specialist will best define on an individual basis, specific low vision cause, treatments, and available visual aid devices.
Enhancing Low Vision
While complete restoration of the vision is presently uncommon, enhancing low vision is accomplished through various visual aids and vision enhancing tools. As the need for visual enhancement covers a broad range of individuals with specific low vision needs many options in low vision devices are presented to accommodate this flux in visual aid performance. Vision Specialists offer understanding and guidance aiding in the decision for the best possible tools to accomplish vision enhancement while factoring in the individual circumstances unique to each person. With substantial loss of vision, it is highly recommended to consult with a Vision Specialist through the process, as their experience will help remove the guesswork regarding necessary tools and features, along with providing expert understanding of low vision specific conditions.
Questions, Considerations, and Expectations for Low Vision Devices: What to Know
Decisions are best made when we are well informed. Knowing a little bit about what we are looking for and why certainly makes finding whatever it is, easier. Imagine shopping for a car with the only thought of “Will it move”? Sure it’ll move, but there is so much more to know, consider, and expect. This is perhaps the same idea when considering low vision devices. “Will the device aid with low vision”? Sure, but is it the right fit for the task at hand? The right fit visual aid is determined by many factors:
Use. What will the visual aid be used for? As the technology for vision enhancement tools have progressed, tailored low vision aids have been designed with specific uses in mind. As an example, for the shorter periods of reading like menus and prescription labels, portable handheld low vision magnifiers like the ‘Pebble portable electronic magnifier’ offered by Enhanced Vision are perfect little lightweight tools for the job. This portable electronic magnifier provides 2 to 10x magnification, viewable on a 3.5” or 4.3” high resolution LCD, making the ‘Pebble’ a great on-the-go low vision magnifier. However these great handheld magnifiers may not be the best devices for working on the computer, watching television, or reading a fantastic novel. Desktop magnifiers like the Merlin series, allow for vision enhancement with the freedom of a hands free design, including options for computer connection, and present viewing options for brightness and contrast, 2.4 to 77x magnification, along with several additional features. As spectacular as the desktop low vision magnifiers are, I wouldn’t suggest attempting to carry one a handbag.
Pebble – Hand-held magnifier from Enhanced Vision
Vision Specific. This is an important consideration, examining the vision specific needs. Above we discussed “use”, considering the task and which device lends it’s technology to proper visual assistance. (Note: The above was focused on tool and task. This section is focused on eye and aid). Examining the individual situation presented, visual circumstances require added attention. Individuals requiring bioptic lenses may find themselves looking for added features to accommodate visual assistance. Also noting whether peripheral vision is compromised, ample lighting options are available, and are contrast viewing adjustments needed? In some situations, permanent blind spots may be present. For those with Diabetic Retinopathy, several considerations are presented as the effected eye’s retina often makes nighttime vision more difficult, causes blurred vision, floaters, shadows and missing vision areas altogether. Being able to identify the specific areas of support needed for the eye greatly helps identify which low vision devices will provide the correct visual assistance.
Operation. How hard can it be? Well, with the constant advancements in technology One would hope thing would be getting easier. However, I remember when I first started driving, cars had very little on the dashboard, nothing on the steering wheel, no mechanical voice telling me “turn left”, let alone would I have considered being able to talk on the phone while traveling down the road. I once twisted a dial to set my car clock, now I have to go to the dealer to figure out the language settings! Low vision devices can be easy to operate while providing great low vision aid with just a simple turn of the dial, like the Amigo Electronic Video Magnifier; owner operation couldn’t be easier! Lightweight and portable, simply placing the Amigo directly on the material to be magnified (i.e. book, menu, bus schedule, event program), and turning the magnification dial to the desired level of magnification, visual assistance is accomplished in the palm of your hand! This remarkable portable electric video magnifier combines a perfect blend of technology and simplicity. Its basic operation is self-navigating with little to remember while providing the forefront of visual aid technology with sharp image viewing, freeze frame, multiple viewing options and more. Learning how to operate the low vision assist device should feel confident, able, and empowered. Chose a device that is not overwhelming to operate.
Amigo – Portable Magnifier from Enhanced Vision
Cost. Perhaps this consideration goes without saying? The first thing many of us do when considering the purchase of something (be it food, clothing or gasoline), is to look at the price. What is the bottom line? What is being purchased? How long will this last? What is the maintenance schedule? Vision Impaired Equipment not only vastly ranges in ability and use; it greatly ranges in price too. Vision Specialist like Enhanced Vision has designed outstanding low vision products tailored with ability and affordability, presenting vision assist devices in an attainable fashion. From the low cost vision magnifiers to the higher priced desktop video magnifiers Enhanced Vision offers the ease of product exploration and comparison while continuing to develop innovative low vision technologies.
Low Vision Devices: What are the Options
The most common low vision magnifiers are identified as contact lenses and corrective glasses meeting the general vision needs such as farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatisms. For individuals with more substantial vision loss onset as a result of eye disease or macular degeneration, common vision magnifiers provide insufficient visual support. Products have been designed to successfully meet the growing need for low vision aid. As mentioned earlier the Pebble and Amigo portable low vision magnifiers provide outstanding magnification and low vision support. Both are simple, sleek designs, easy to use and affordable. Perfect for everyday use, the pebble is small enough to fit in a handbag or worn on the belt.
Growing in size and ability, transportable video magnifiers like the Acrobat Low Vision Magnifier allows 3 in 1 viewing options for near, far, and everything in between. Set up and transport is easy. The Acrobat family of portable desktop magnifiers is great for the student traveling to class or for the professional at the office and in the boardroom.
Acrobat – Versatile 3-in-1 Desktop Magnifier from Enhanced Vision
Versatile Magnifiers like the Flipper utilize the technology of a rotating camera to magnify the images. For working on the computer, note taking, reading, and the common multi-tasking, Versatile Magnifiers allow tremendous freedom while living up to the name “versatile”. Able to connect to the television and to the computer it’s a great low vision aid for work and leisure.
Product lines Merlin and Acrobat both present desktop magnifiers offering visual magnification up to 77x. These desktop low vision magnifiers are truly an amazing development in low vision technology. Large LCD screens, beautiful picture quality, clarity with adjustable screens make comfort and ease part of the visual aid experience! These desktop magnifiers are recommended tools for individuals with substantial loss of vision.
Merlin – Desktop Magnifier from Enhanced Vision
Continuing to advance the low vision and assistive vision devices, Enhanced Vision’s team of Vision Specialist are equipped with knowledge, experience, and the leading low vision technology. Viewing the product lines offered by Enhanced Vision, learning about the many features available and even having an in home tutorial demonstration is a great beginning to vision enhancement.
National Eye Institute
US National Library of Medicine
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