People with vision problems who are looking to improve their reading abilities can now say: There’s an app for that.
Digital tablets — like Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle — have been found to help improve the speed and ease of reading for people with moderate vision loss, according to new research presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology this week.
The study, conducted at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, involved 100 people with eye diseases that had damaged their central vision. Researchers found all of the participants quickly regained the ability to read quickly and comfortably by using digital tablets. Even those with moderate vision loss increased their reading speed by 15 words-per-minute, on average. Using a tablet with a back-lit screen resulted in the fastest reading speeds for all participants, no matter what their level of visual acuity.
Participants were able to read at least another 42 words-per-minute when using the iPad tablet on the 18-point font setting, compared with reading a print book or newspaper. Another 12 words per minute, on average, was achieved by participants using the Kindle tablet set to 18-point font. Those with the poorest vision — defined as 20/40 or worse in both eyes— showed the most improvement in speed when using an iPad or Kindle, compared with print.
Loss of central vision affects millions of people who have eye diseases such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, which damage the eye's retina. Before the iPad and Kindle, reading aids were limited to lighted magnifiers.
"Reading is a simple pleasure that we often take for granted until vision loss makes it difficult," said Dr. Daniel Roth, an associate clinical professor at Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine who led the study. "Our findings show that at a relatively low cost, digital tablets can improve the lives of people with vision loss and help them reconnect with the larger world."