By Rozi Rice
Living with low vision can present unique challenges for adults. I facilitate a Low Vision Support Group that meets monthly for adults who live with Macular Degeneration and Low Vision. This condition affects their ability to perform daily tasks independently, impacting their overall quality of life. However, with the advancements in assistive technology, rehabilitation services and support groups, adults with low vision can regain their independence and lead fulfilling lives. Technological advancements are revolutionizing the way “some” adults with low vision interact with the world. From the perspective of many of my group members, low vision presents unique challenges for adults who either do not or cannot access smart technology. Here are some suggested resources and technology for people living with Low Vision.
- Assistive Devices: Enhancing Vision Assistive devices play a crucial role in helping adults with low vision overcome their limitations. Magnifiers, both handheld and electronic, can enlarge text and images, making them easier to read. Screen readers, such as *JAWS and *VoiceOver, convert text into speech, enabling individuals to navigate digital content. In the future wearable technology like smart glasses can enhance vision by providing real-time visual assistance.
- Rehabilitation Services: Regaining independence through training and rehabilitation services plays a vital role in helping adults with low vision adapt to their condition and regain some independence. Low Vision therapy programs and dedicated clinics focus on improving visual skills and maximizing the use of remaining vision. Orientation and mobility training teach individuals how to navigate their environment safely and confidently.
- Innovations in Low Vision Technology: The field of low vision technology is constantly evolving, bringing forth innovative solutions to enhance the lives of adults with low vision. Artificial intelligence-powered devices can recognize and describe objects, read text, and provide real-time assistance. Assistive apps provide functionalities like color identification, magnification, and text-to-speech conversion. An excellent and affordable option is the Amazon Alexa, which is a low barrier option for people who meet the criteria to use it.
- Support Groups and Communities: Connecting and participating in-person and virtually by joining a support group or online community will provide a valuable platform for adults with low vision to connect with others facing similar challenges. These groups offer a safe space to share experiences, seek advice, and provide support. In addition, they provide a space for individuals to connect, share resources, and find encouragement.
February is Low Vision Awareness Month; by raising awareness about these resources and offering more affordable options, we can empower adults with low vision to embrace their abilities, pursue their passions, and lead more active and fulfilling lives. We need to create a more inclusive society where everyone can thrive, regardless of their visual abilities with more accessibility for everyone.
Jewish Community Services offers a monthly group, Meaningful Conversations: Living with Low Vision, on the second Thursday of each month from 1:30-3:00. For more information contact: Rozi Rice at 410-843-7325 or email@example.com.
*JAWS (64-Bit) is a computer screen reader program that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a Refreshable Braille display. It features talking installation, two multi-lingual speech synthesizers, fully compatible with Magic screen magnification software, and formatted basic training in text and audio.
*VoiceOver is designed to help individuals with vision issues who cannot easily see to read text on or navigate on Apple products. It reads back the content of what is on the screen and helps users navigate by describing what’s on the screen. Users touch the screen to hear what is under their finger and use a multitude of VoiceOver gestures to control the device. VoiceOver works with all the apps built into devices and some apps from the Apple App Store.
Rozi Rice is a Program Coordinator at Jewish Community Services
Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.