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«The Macular Degeneration Foundation Guides Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide: The fourth in a series of guides produced by the Foundation. It ...»

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 Hand-held magnifiers, some with built-in lighting  Bar magnifiers that can magnify one line of writing at a time  Dome magnifiers which many find easier to use  Fixed stand magnifiers which keep your hands free for reading, writing and other activities such as signing a cheque  Spectacle binoculars available in clear or tinted colour for reading or close detail work

Pocket Magnifiers:

There is a large variety of pocket size magnifiers available in different shapes, sizes, and magnification strengths. They are a useful tool when out and about, for example, to check bus timetables or price tags and with hobbies such as tying lines when fishing.

Other Magnifiers  Prismatic half eye magnification glasses or clip-on mini reading glasses are available in all different styles and colours.

 Clip-on magnifiers that attach to glasses for detailed work  Telescopes in a range of sizes and styles that help with close and distance vision  Pendant or gooseneck magnifiers  Large lamp or stand magnifiers with built-in lighting and adjustable arms for reading, writing and close detail work  Monoculars or binoculars to assist with reading distance items, for example, reading street signs, spotting an upcoming bus, playing bowls and getting a better view of the action at the theatre  Specially designed lightweight binocular glasses for watching television

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Primary Aids: Canes Many people with low vision may never need or use a cane but it can be very useful for negotiating the environment. Many people find that a cane gives them much greater confidence to move about. Canes are available in collapsible styles for ease of carrying and can easily fit into a smaller carry bag or handbag. It is important to learn how to use a cane from a qualified instructor and this can be done during orientation and mobility training. The white cane is an internationally recognised symbol of vision impairment and alerts people to a person’s reduced vision.

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24 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide “With deteriorating central vision due to wet MD in both my eyes, I found it difficult to read the numbers on the buses as they approached and so I am now using a cane after having had training sessions in its use. The bus now stops when they see my cane and the driver announces the number of the bus.

The cane also helps me to gauge the height and width of the steps and to recognise rough surfaces and gaps on walking areas”. Margaret Primary Aids: Guide dogs Guide dogs assist people who are blind or vision impaired to travel around safely and independently and are most commonly Labradors and Golden Retrievers. These dogs are legally entitled to travel anywhere, including public transport, taxis and all public places. Guide dogs are for those who are blind, proficient in the use of a primary mobility aid such as a long cane and meet certain criteria as outlined by the service provider.

Secondary Aids: Electronic These are often used with the primary aid of a cane or a dog to provide additional information in detecting overhead obstacles and/or additional information such as the location of doorways and a clear pathway of travel.

Training with a qualified instructor is necessary.

Electronic The most popular is the Miniguide which acts in a similar Orientation fashion to a bat’s inbuilt sonar, sending out ultrasonic Devices: beams and providing vibratory or auditory feedback to the user when it detects an obstacle.

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Technologies Technology has changed the way we undertake so many tasks, from accessing information to driving a car. Don’t dismiss technology because it was not a part of your education or your life experiences so far. Be keen to investigate and learn different types of technology and be open to learning new skills to help maintain quality of life and independence. If it is helpful and achieves the right outcomes, then it is worth considering.

Mobile Phones

There are three options to consider:

 A simple phone with tactile buttons  A phone that is compatible with magnification and speech software  A touch screen phone with audio functions eg Apple iPhone If the primary use for the mobile is just for phone calls then a simple phone with basic functions is ideal. It should have large, high contrast keys and display, loud ring tones and emergency call functions.

If a mobile is needed for additional functions, select a model with screen reader software programs which will speak all of the information on the screen, including contacts, caller information and text messages. It should also have a screen enlargement program (to increase the font size on the screen) and a high contrast display panel for easier reading.

New generation touch screen phones (often called smart phones such as the Apple iPhone) have a broad range of features including functions to support those with low vision, for example, magnification and speech accessibility for voice navigation commands. In addition to the usual tools of phone, email and web accessibility, they can also provide GPS navigation and applications such as a DAISY talking book player.

Television To help with TV viewing there are large screen televisions and universal remote controls with large buttons. You may want to consider an upgrade to an LED TV which has the advantage of more vibrant colours and sharper contrast. The very large screens now available are often found to be very helpful.

26 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide Audio Books Audio books or talking books are available from a range of providers including low vision agencies, council libraries and audio book websites.

Some local newspapers are also available in audio format. The content is now mostly in a digital format and can be played on a range of devices including standard CD players, MP3 devices and tablet computers.

Some specific examples are:

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Digital A way of preparing an audio book, usually in CD format, Accessible that allows the reader different options to play DAISY Information books on a computer or a digital playback device called System a DAISY player.


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“When hand-held magnifiers stopped working for me I started using a portable electronic magnifier to enable me to read whilst out shopping and around the house, and found it extremely handy for everyday use”. Jean Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide 29 Computers A computer opens up doors for accessing information and many people who thought they could not use one are now avid users. Many low vision service providers have computer training programs and typing courses. There is a range of ways to assist those with low vision to use a computer including a large screen to increase the viewing area and ways to increase the size of items on the screen.

For those with low vision, simple fonts without decorative curves are easier to read (eg Arial or Calibri) and use upper and lower case instead of typing in all capitals. Also, when typing, try to add extra spacing between words and lines of text so the breakdown of sentences and paragraphs is clearer.

Computer modifications To get the most out of using your computer consider some of the following


Large monitor to increase viewing area  print keyboard or apply large font keyboard stickers Large  Increase the cursor size (software is available for this)  Learning to touch type and use keyboard commands if using the mouse or cursor is difficult  Enlarge the toolbar display, change the colour contrast, improve the visibility of the mouse pointer (such modifications are built into Windows and Apple Mac computers) Screen magnification Screen magnification software increases the size of the image displayed on the screen so that only a portion of the original screen image can be seen at one time. You move the magnified window in order to view other parts of the original screen image using the mouse or keyboard.

Screen reader Screen reading software translates the written word (text) to the spoken word (speech). Such software is designed for people who have very little usable vision.

30 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide Screen magnifier and reader

At times, a program with a magnifier AND speech may help:

 Typing Echo – hearing text as it is typed can be useful for new or slow typists  long documents or web pages, listening may be less tiring after a while With  Starting with both may simplify the transition to speech only if your vision deteriorates further

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Popular screen magnifiers and readers Guide: A program to use if you are not familiar with using the computer but want to learn to send and receive emails and browse the Internet. It is specifically designed for beginners, with an easy to use menu, built in magnification, colour contrast and text-to-speech capability.

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32 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide Web browsers Whether you use Windows or Mac, you access the Internet through a web browser. There are several web browsers available, the most popular being Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Each contains a variety of features which can help people with low vision who rely on the use of a keyboard or need to make a webpage easier to see.

Electronic note takers An electronic note taker is basically an adapted personal data device. Users

can do the same tasks that a typical personal data device allows including:

taking notes, reading email, diary functions, calculator, playing music or digital books and data transfer to or from computers. Because the electronic note takers are adapted for persons who are blind or vision impaired, they have built-in speech output.

Netbooks and tablet personal computers Netbooks and tablet personal computers are essentially just small computers. They are highly portable which means that those with low vision can readily access low vision technology when out and about.

Learning the computer For those who are unfamiliar with computers but would like to learn, contact your low vision service provider to check if they have classes for vision impaired people. Local Computer Pals clubs for seniors which offer a fun and supportive environment may also be suitable for learning computer skills. Technical Aid to the Disabled (TAD) can help to provide affordable computer packages for people with a disability. Another excellent resource is Media Access Australia (MAA). MAA is a not-for-profit organisation devoted to increasing access to media for people with disabilities. Their website contains

information on assistive technology:


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Audio description Audio description is used in the performing arts (theatre, dance, and opera), media (TV, cinema, DVD) and also in art galleries and museums to verbally describe the image or action. Only selected performances for performing arts and cinema will include audio description. DVDs will be marked if they include an audio description feature. Audio-described music lessons are also available.

Radio Digital radios provide the clearest sound output. There is now a wide range to choose from including those with large print, large buttons and high colour contrast.

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40 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide Vision Australia Phone: 1300 847 466 Address: 4 Mitchell Street, Enfield NSW 2136 Website: www.visionaustralia.org Email: info@visionaustralia.org

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Queensland Guide Dogs Queensland Phone: 1800 810 122 Address: 1978 Gympie Road Bald Hills QLD 4036 Website: www.guidedogsqld.com.au Queensland Blind Association Phone: (07) 3848 8888 Address: 26 Warwick Street Annerley QLD 4103 Website: www.qba.asn.au Email: qba@qba.asn.au Vision Australia Phone: 1300 847 466 Address: 373 Old Cleveland Road Coorparoo QLD 4151 Website: www.visionaustralia.org Email: info@visionaustralia.org

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42 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide Victoria Guide Dogs Victoria Phone: (03) 9854 4444 Address: Chandler Highway Kew VIC 3101 Website: www.guidedogsvictoria.com.au Email: referrals@guidedogsvictoria.com.au Vision Australia Phone: 1300 847 466 Address: 454 Glenferrie Road Kooyong VIC 3144 Website: www.visionaustralia.org Email: info@visionaustralia.org Western Australia Association for the Blind of WA Phone: (08) 9311 8202 Address: 61 Kitchener Avenue Victoria Park WA 6100 Website: www.guidedogswa.com.au Northern Territory Guide Dogs Association of SA/NT Phone: (08) 8995 2222 Address: Shop 4, 5 Keith Lane Fannie Bay NT 0820 Website: www.guidedogs.org.au Email: info@guidedogs.org.au Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide 43 Helpful Information Australian Senior Computer Club Association encourages seniors to take advantage of modern information technology to meet their individual needs and to provide further challenges, to become computer literate at their own pace, in a friendly non-threatening environment and to have fun whilst doing so.

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44 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide Private Providers of Low Vision Aids and Technology Quantum is a leading Australian distributor of technology for people who have a print disability (people who are blind, vision impaired or have a learning disability). They have over two decades of experience in the field and are a privately owned Australian company. Quantum has been an ongoing partner of the Macular Degeneration Foundation since its formation in 2001.

NSW: (02) 9479 3100 QLD: (07) 3831 4894 VIC: (03) 9545 4100 (offers free low vision assessments) Email: info@quantumrlv.com.au Web: www.quantumrlv.com.au HumanWare is a global company with marketing, production and research and development operations in Canada and established sales offices in other countries including Australia.

NSW: (02) 9686 2600 Email: au.sales@humanware.com Web: www.humanware.com Audio-Read is an Australian company that has developed the Audio Navigator, a user friendly digital audio player for recreational audio reading.

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