Low-Vision Aids and Adaptive Technology

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Low-Vision Aids and Adaptive Technology

Topic Overview

Your eye care professional or a low-vision specialist will use the information from a low-vision evaluation to recommend the most appropriate types of aids and adaptive technology to help you cope with your specific vision impairment.

Low-vision aids

Low-vision aids are special lenses or electronic systems that make images appear larger. They may include:

  • Magnifying lenses. These may range from simple hand-held lenses for reading to special eyeglasses or magnifiers much like the lenses that jewellers use. Some magnifying lenses have a built-in light for better illumination, and some are mounted on stands so your hands are free. For distance vision, small hand-held telescopes or lenses that clip onto your eyeglasses may be used.
  • Video enlargement systems. These are electronic systems that include a closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) or video camera that can be used to transmit an enlarged image of print, pictures, or other items onto a screen where it is easier for you to see. These systems can also sometimes adjust brightness and contrast to make the enlarged image easier to see. Some video systems have both the camera and screens built into a head-mounted device that looks like a pair of large goggles, allowing a person to move around while using them.
  • Computer display and enlargement systems. Large screens and software that enlarge print, pictures, and other visual information are available. Computers also allow you to alter brightness, contrast, colour, and other parts of the display to make it easier to see what is on the screen. Computers are sometimes used with video enlargement systems.

Adaptive technology

Adaptive technology is used in devices or products that may not necessarily help you see better but can make life easier and safer. Many are designed to help you perform common tasks that may be more difficult when you have impaired vision. Examples of adaptive technology include:

  • Large-print items. Books, newspapers, magazines, medicine labels, bank cheques, and playing cards are often available in large print. Many people with low vision also use recordings of books and other printed materials.
  • Special papers and writing aids. These may be something as simple as paper with extra-bold lines that help you write information on checks in the proper spaces.
  • Adaptive appliances. These are common household items that have been adapted for use by people with low vision, such as clocks and watches with electronic voices that announce the time, or clocks, telephones, and calculators with extra-large buttons and numerals that can be seen more easily. Kitchen appliances with similar features, such as ovens, are also available.
  • Speech software for computer systems. Special software allows computers to recognize spoken commands or to convert dictated speech into text. Speech synthesis software allows computers to speak text and read documents.
  • Optical character recognition (OCR) software. OCR systems allow you to scan documents and convert them into computer text that can be enlarged for display or read aloud by a speech synthesis program.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised February 24, 2010

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