Over 250 million people live with visual impairment globally. While it affects all segments of the population, it disproportionately affects older people: 81 per cent of people who are blind or have moderate to severe visual impairment are aged 50 and over.
Encouragingly, assistive technologies are continually improving. As a result, a range of products have emerged that use cutting-edge technology,
Options that provide independence, safety and discretion:
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Assistance guiding while walking: Wearable devices consisting of a visual senor worn around the neck, and vibrating feedback units worn around the wrists. (Intentionally look like a fitness tracker and not a medical device). The sensor detects objects in the visual field and sends information to an app, which relays the information the units worn around the wrists. Through haptic feedback (the motor that makes a phone vibrate), users are guided through a physical environment. Utilizing the phone’s GPS, the app can navigate the user to chosen destinations via vibrations to the left and right sides of the body when the user needs to turn.
Tactile: Makes printed text more accessible to the blind. Less than one per cent of printed material has braille translation – which can make simple tasks, like reading mail, inaccessible. The device that glides over printed pages, scans the text, and translates it into braille, line by line. It also works with an app that, after scanning digital text, provides a voice-over transcription.
Horus, MyEye: Uses a camera (on headset or attached to glasses), which can learn to read text, recognize faces and identify objects, it uses real-time audio to identify a face or an object. It will automatically recognize anything in its field of vision, which is cross-referenced with an internal database. If a face or object isn’t recognized, it will encourage the user to identify it; the more Horus is used, the smarter it gets.
eSight: Resembles a pair of glasses, it gives sight to those who are legally blind. It uses digital cameras and image-processing algorithms to display images on two screens that rest close to the eyes. It can produce images similar to 20/20 vision in real time – while auto-focusing on short-, mid- and long-range objects. It removes the need for magnifying devices and assistance animals.