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Technology and Accessibility

Closed-circuit TV
Closed-circuit TV

New technologies offer people with low vision a range of options to help live more independently. Here are a few notable products.

The Apple iPad can be an excellent option for some with low vision. The high contrast screen and built-in accessibility features make it a good alternative to a personal computer. The iPad ranges in price from $329 to $929 depending on features and connectivity options selected.

Closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) also referred to as video magnifiers, have been around for decades. This low vision aid uses a video camera to capture the image of reading material in real time and displays it on a monitor. The device will allow you to magnify text or objects up to 40 times their actual size. You can also manipulate brightness and contrast of an image. Some products offer HD image quality, and most products are compatible with any computer monitor. The price range is from $2,000 to $4500.

High-Tech Portable Magnifiers

The Eschenbach SmartLux is a portable video magnifier with a large field of view, a non-reflective 5-inch LCD, and high magnification range. The portable magnifier makes reading simple, as the camera is centrally positioned under the display and is easy to use with large, tactile operating buttons. $595.

Mobile CCTV can travel to work or the classroom. Optron makes the i-stick which weighs less than 4 pounds, and can be used with a laptop or a monitor. The i-stick sells for about $3,000

The KNFB Reader Mobile is character recognition software that takes a photo of printed material, uploads it to a Nokia N82 cell phone, and then reads the text aloud. The user can choose to display the print on the phone’s built-in screen which highlights each word as it is spoken. It sells for $995 plus the cost of the phone.

Portable Video Magnifier - The Telesensory Pico is a battery-operated portable video magnifier that fits in a purse or pocket, making it easier to read grocery lists, price tags, menus and small print. You can adjust to brighter colors, or change from positive (black on white) to negative text (black on white). $745.

Talking Devices

Talking GPS - Humanware makes a diverse selection of assistive technologies. The Trekker Breeze is a talking GPS (global positioning system). The device verbally announces names of streets, intersections, and landmarks. $700.

A talking scanner from Humanware called the ScannaR can scan any text document and read it back to you in seconds. It does not need to be connected to a PC, and is built with its own hard drive that stores up to 500,000 pages of text. It retails for about $3,000.

Also from Humanware, the Victor Reader Stream is a portable DAISY talking book, MP3 and music CD player that allows users to download a range a materials from textbooks to magazines.

Smartphone Apps

The LookTel Recognizer and LookTel Money Reader are apps for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that allow users with visual impairments or blindness to instantly recognize everyday objects such as currency, packaged goods in the pantry, identity cards, soda cans at the grocery store, or CDs in a music collection. Once a library of recognized items has been built, users can simply point the iPhone's camera at an object and the phone will recognize and describe the item (or currency denomination) instantly. The LookTel apps were developed under sponsorship from the National Institute of Health (NIH), National Eye Institute (NEI). Apps are priced at $9.99 each. More information.

Home and Office Computers

Microsoft’s Windows operating system for PCs includes a variety options to interact with your computer using speech recognition, magnification, and touch technology. In Windows 7, look for the Ease of Access Center in the Control Panel. Windows XP, which runs on many older PCs, includes an Accessibility Wizard for adjusting your PC settings with vision-related options.

Microsoft-compatible screen readers and voice recognition products can be browsed online at enablemart.com.

Apple’s OS X operating system for Macintosh computers features sophisticated and easy-to-use accessibility features for people with low vision. With the Universal Access software and the new Multi-Touch trackpad (or Apple’s “Magic Mouse”), the user can have full command of reading and writing using only their touch and hearing. Similar accessibility features are built into Apple’s popular iPhone and iPad as well.


Note: Prices are shown in US dollars, and some products are not available outside the United States. The Glaucoma Research Foundation does not endorse these products; the information is provided for your reference. We recommend thoroughly researching a product before making a purchase.

In Gleams, this article was titled "More High Tech for Low Vision." Thanks to Allison Lee for researching the information in this article.

Last reviewed on September 14, 2015

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