During your holiday gift shopping this year, you may have the opportunity to give a priceless gift to a loved one with low vision: the joy of reading.
People who have eye diseases that damage their central vision can again read quickly and comfortably by using digital tablets, a new study shows. On average, patients with moderate vision loss significantly increased their reading speed and comfort using an iPad™ digital tablet. The researchers think that other tablets that feature back-lit screens and font-enlargement capabilities would offer similar benefits. The study was presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s 2012 Annual Meeting.
Millions of people who have eye diseases such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy struggle with the loss of their central vision. These diseases damage the light-sensitive cells of the eye’s retina, which relays images to the optic nerve for transmission to the brain. When treatments like eyeglasses, medications, or surgery are no longer effective, ophthalmologists – eye medical doctors and surgeons – help patients make the most of their remaining sight by using low-vision aids. Before digital tablets came along, reading aids were limited to lighted magnifiers, which are cumbersome and inconvenient by comparison.
“Reading is a simple pleasure that we often take for granted until vision loss makes it difficult,” said Daniel Roth, M.D., who led of the study. “Our findings show that at a relatively low cost, digital tablets can improve the lives of people with vision loss and help them reconnect with the larger world.”
All of the 100 participants in the study, conducted at Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine, gained at least 42 words-per-minute (WPM) when using the iPad set to 18-point font, compared with reading a print book or newspaper. People with the poorest vision showed the most improvement in speed when using an iPad or Kindle™, compared with print.