Approximately 12 million American adults aged 40 and above live with a visual impairment, including blindness and low vision. Vision loss is linked to further risks of physical and mental health. It can increase a person’s risk of falls and can cause loneliness, social isolation, fear, and anxiety. The deterioration of vision, or complete vision loss, can feel overwhelming and affect one’s mobility and independence. The reality is that vision plays a crucial role in health and well-being.
Fortunately, assistive technology has much to offer visually impaired adults to improve their quality of life. Assistive technology has been evolving for decades and has made significant strides to make the world more inclusive. These innovations transform healthcare and bring back joy and productivity to the blind. Today, we’ll discuss three ways technology improves the lives of people who are visually impaired.
1. It increases home accessibility
Empowering the blind to move independently and safely at home requires creating modifications around the house. Many of these modifications are simple organization techniques to make the house easier to navigate. These include rearranging the furniture to develop smoother traffic around the hallways or labeling kitchen items with braille or tactile materials to make cooking safer for those with low vision. However, making the home genuinely accessible can also be done using smart technology. Virtual assistant technology such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri can now be used to control home security systems, appliances, and cooling systems. These assistive technologies can be used to order household necessities and groceries or set timers for cooking or laundry. Because visual impairment can cover many capabilities, smart lighting technologies such as voice commands or motion sensors can control assistive lights and colors. Through technology, a homeowner with low vision can have greater peace of mind and minimize safety risks and hazards in his own home.
2. It improves patient outcomes
Modern technology has tremendous potential to enhance healthcare services delivered by ophthalmologists, ophthalmic nurses, opticians, and optometrists. Rapidly evolving technologies in nursing, in particular, have assisted in sorting through patient data and improving the accuracy of diagnoses in different medical fields, including ophthalmology. Robot nurses, for instance, can perform routine tasks such as eye examinations or diagnostic evaluations to enable nurses and clinicians to focus on treatment. New care delivery methods, such as teleophthalmology, or the integration of wearable medical devices and telecommunications, can improve eye care for the visually impaired. Robotic systems such as the OSCANN desk technology can use eye-tracking to diagnose neurodegenerative diseases, while the Preceyes Surgical System can increase the effectiveness and precision of Vitreoretinal surgeries. Artificial intelligence can be harnessed to sort through patient data to map out Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Undoubtedly, technology has a role in improving patient outcomes and creating better treatment plans for the visually impaired population.
3. It enhances productivity and learning
Studies have found that only 44% of blind adults in the USA are employed, compared to 79% of those without disabilities. Technology plays a key role in closing this gap between the visually impaired and the sighted population. Assistive technology gives access to the same quality of education and opens them to a broader range of career opportunities. Mobile devices such as BrailleNote Touch give users access to Google Docs and DropBox using a Braille keyboard and enable them to take notes, research, and communicate with peers and teachers. Apple and Android-embedded technologies such as VoiceOver and Talkback allow its users to navigate messages, apps, and phone calls which can hugely assist in work and school. Specialized software such as Sibelius enables blind musicians to create or read music with audio and braille output. Resources like these are good ways to provide vision loss support and allow the visually impaired and the blind to succeed in their learning and work endeavors.
4. It enables mobility
Hanging up the car keys for good is one of the hardest things to do for visually impaired people. It’s critical for those diagnosed with macular degeneration to know about the licensing restrictions in each state, which may vary depending on the visual disease entity, before making a decision. Being proactive about the ability to operate a vehicle ensures a person’s safety on the road. Should they decide to hit the brakes on driving, assistive technology can help visually impaired people live independently. For instance, sensor-based assistive devices such as RFID-enabled walking sticks have made traveling by foot safe for the blind. These work by detecting and calculating the approximate distance of a person from the sidewalk border. Alternative transportation, through apps like Uber or Lyft, have also been helping with independence and mobility.
Technology has various advantages for the visually impaired community. It is a game-changer in helping them access information and participate meaningfully in society.
Visit our website to learn more ways to provide vision loss support—from transportation and assistive devices to reading solutions. We offer phone or online needs assessment to patients and caregivers looking for assistance at no cost.
Article written by Ronda Jeanne
Exclusively submitted to the Hope Vision Foundation