Low-vision aids for seniors
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American ProfileSeptember 21, 2011 | 1,739 views | Post a comment
Dear Savvy Senior,
I’m looking for some good low-vision products that can help my wife, who has severe vision loss. What can you recommend?
With more than 21 million Americans living with some form of uncorrectable vision impairment today, more and more products for low-vision are being developed that can help with many different needs. Here is a quick guide to some great products and where to find them.
To help with daily living tasks, you can find a wide array of “talking,” “large print,” or “jumbo-sized” items. You can find these products at sites like independentliving.com or 800-537-2118; shoplowvision.com, 800-826-4200; maxiaids.com, 800-522-6294; and lssproducts.com, 800-468-4789.
There are also a number of high-tech, low-vision devices that offer incredible capabilities. Unfortunately, many of these items are expensive and they aren’t covered by private insurance or Medicare. Here are some to check out.
•Desktop magnifiers: Also known as closed circuit TVs, these are home-based machines that provide powerful magnification, contrast, and clarity for reading, writing, and looking at pictures. More styles and variations are available today with prices ranging between $2,500 and $3,000. Find these at: optelec.com, 800-826-4200; freedomscientific.com, 800-444-4443; enhancedvision.com, 888-811-3161; and humanware.com, 800-722-3393.
•Portable magnifiers: For reading small print in and outside the home, portable, battery-powered video magnifiers are small enough to fit in your pocket. Some good ones to check out are the “RUBY” at freedomscientific.com, the “Compact Mini” from optelec.com, the “Pebble” at enhancedvision.com and the “Feather” at clarityusa.com. Prices typically range from $350 to $650.
•Text-to-speech: For converting text to speech, there are several devices that let you take a snapshot of printed material (magazines, newspapers, books, mail, etc.), and in seconds it reads it aloud. The ClearReader+ from optelec.com is one of the best for home or office use, but costs $2,500. If you want mobility, the Intel Reader (careinnovations.com) is a handheld text-to-speech device that retails for $899. And for iPhone 4 users, the new ZoomReader app developed by Ai Squared (aisquared.com, 800-859-0270) provides text-to-speech capabilities for $20.
•Computer magnification: To customize a Microsoft Windows personal computer for low vision, the computer’s operating system offers built-in setting adjustments that can help. See microsoft.com/enable for instructions. If that’s not sufficient, Ai Squared sells a fantastic software application for $545 called ZoomText Magnifier/Reader that enlarges, enhances, and reads aloud everything on the computer screen.
Or, if your wife uses an iMac or iPad, Apple provides some outstanding built-in accessibility features (see apple.com/accessibility).
•Low-vision cell phone: The Samsung Haven from Verizon Wireless is a basic flip-phone that provides voice command (you tell it what to do) and voice output (it speaks to you) technology that lets you easily operate it without vision. The cost: $40 with a two-year contract. See verizonwireless.com or call 800-256-4646.
•Talking GPS: To find her way around town, the Trekker Breeze is a small handheld GPS navigator that announces the names of streets, intersections, and landmarks as she’s walking or riding in a vehicle. Available at humanware.com for $929.
•Currency reader: To avoid being shortchanged at the store, the iBill (small enough to attach to a key ring) identifies all U.S. bills by voice or a series of tone or vibrations. Price: $99, 888-606-7248.
•Savvy Tip: To learn more about low-vision products and to try many of them out, visit a vision rehabilitation agency in your area. See afb.org or call 800-232-5463 to locate one.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of The Savvy Senior book. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit http://SavvySenior.org.