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Low Vision Tip: Portable Electronic Magnifiers

For patients with visual impairments, a common problem is small print access.

This is related to two specific deficits in vision:

  1. Decreased Resolution — unable to see small detail,
  2. Decreased Contrast Sensitivity — cannot see low contrast/grey detail.

Optical magnifiers make print look bigger, and current technology has added new options. Portable electronic magnifiers are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

They offer a significantly larger field of view at a given level of magnification—it is nice to have several words displayed on the screen and not have to read one word at a time.

They also do an excellent job of enhancing contrast. A poor contrast grey-on-grey print in the newspaper can be displayed in brilliant high-contrast black and white.

Prices for this technology have also dropped. Pictured above is one such device—the Eschenbach “Smart Lux” ($595). If you have reduced vision and have trouble reading, look up your local low vision rehabilitation specialist and try out one of these new devices.

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Article by Donald C. Fletcher, MD, Director of the Frank Stein and Paul S. May Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation at California Pacific Medical Center and Affiliate Scientist, Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco.

Last reviewed on October 29, 2017

This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Gleams.

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