With some right tools, a person with low vision can handle most of the daily tasks independently. Here is the list of tools I am using to make my life bit easier. Low vision aids can be pricey, whenever possible, I would find a lower cost alternative.
My main phone is this RadioShack Model 43-208 speaker phone. It has a large high contrast keypad with voice feedback. It also has talking caller ID and talking phone book. See my 10/18/2013 post for complete detail.
Desktop CCTVThis is an electronics magnifier. It connects to a 20-inch LCD monitor/TV and enables me to read printed materials like magazines, bills, and bank statements. I was lucky to find an used Telesensory Genie Pro CCTV because a new one would cost about $2,500. The used one I bought from an university surplus equipment store only cost me $80 plus shipping. You can find used CCTV on eBay and your local low vision store. Read a more detailed description on this CCTV here.
ZoomText version 10This screen magnifier/reader software enables me to see or hear what's being display on the monitor. The magnifier is very easy to use and has many useful features. The screen reader is OK, it has problem to read some websites and documents. JAWS is suppose to be a much better screen reader.
One really cool feature with ZT 10 is the ability of using a HD webcam as CCTV. I was hoping this would be a lower cost alternative for desktop CCTV, but this feature has some problems, so don't throw away your desktop CCTV yet. See my blog post on this feature. AFB's product review also disappointed with the CCTV's preformance. AFB review on ZT 10
If you don't want to spend the big bucks for a screen magnifier reader, there are few free options available.
- Firefox web browser plus NoSquint AddOn - this add on let you change the text zoom level and color.
- NVDA is a free open source screen reader. You can even run this screen reader from a USB flash. NVDA Info
- Windows 7 OS has build-in magnifier and other helpful options. See the Ease Of Access in the control panel
- Font for low vision. APH has a set of special font for people with low vision. You can use this font with PC or Mac. Free download
- AccessWorld reviewed few freeware and shareware on screen magnifier software.
ComputerUnless you are in video editing and gaming, there is no need to get a new PC which often has the latest generation of multi-core processor. A new mininally config PC would probably cost around $500 and up. While an used older model PC like the one below cost less than $200.
I only need a PC for email, web surfing, and running the Zoomtext, a quad-core PC is definitely an overkill. I bought a refurbished IBM desktop PC for $190. The PC has a 3GHz first generation Intel dual core processor, 4GB of memory and a 120GB hard drive with Windows 7 Pro OS. This is a small form factor PC, it is small enough to sit on top of my CCTV unit.
The video output connects to the desktop CCTV. With this configuration, I can use CCTV's split function to read, for example bank statement, on one part of monitor while enter data into Quicken on other part of monitor.
When it come to monitor size, bigger is not better for people with RP. Because of small visual field, you have to keep moving your eyes to locate the stuff you want to see on a big screen monitor. Bigger monitor also has higher native resolution which make everything smaller. If you change the resolution to a lower resolution to make the image bigger you would notice image become fuzzy. For me, the optimal screen size is a 20 inches monitor.
I use a wireless keyboard with large print stickers with this PC. Although there are large print keyboards on the market, they are fairly pricey, instead I use large print stickers on a regular keyboard. I only put the sticker on few selected keys.
Keyboard with stickers.
On my other PC, I have a large print backlit keyboard. Because of my RP problem, I find this keyboard is not much of a big help. In fact, I think I like the other keyboard better.
AZIO large print backlit keyboard
Telescopic EyeglassesI used the Ocutech telescopic eyeglasses when I was working. This is a very light weight manual focus 3x mono telescope mounted on a specially design eyeglasses frame. It is a great tool if you need to keep switching between seeing far and near objects like between a projector screen and the paper in front of you. To see the object a far, you just dip your head a bit so your eye lines up with the Ocutech. To see the stuff in front of you, just move you head up a bit to see thru your regular eyeglasses. Ocutech is very expensive, it costed around $1,500 back in 2007. I imagine the auto-focus model would cost a lot more. Ocutech Info
If you have RP, you can't use the Ocutech for bioptic driving. It is not a good tool for watching TV either. I haven't used the Ocutech since I left my job. I found a pair of 3x binocular eyeglasses for $30. This eyeglasses is perfect for watching TV and sightseeing.
Sun GlassesA baseball cap and a pair of sun glasses are essential for me when I go outside of the house. I don't like Transition len eyeglasses because the color transition speed is way too slow for me. Switching between regular and sun glasses or clip-on is too troublesome. I found the perfect solution for me is a pair of eyeglasses with flip up shade. The polarized shade is attached to the frame with a magnet. I can easily flip the shade up or down as needed. I have 2 different color shades.
The baseball cap also provide face protection from those low hanging tree branches and partially closed doors.
Eye doctors offten suggest the costly Corning GlareControl sunglasses to cut down on glare and to improve constrast. For a much lower cost alternative, you might want to try a pair of sunglasses from Noir Medical. They have all type of color lens for various eye conditions. The GlareShield series is supposely has the same optical performance as the Corning GlareControl lens. You can buy the Noir lens as clip on, flip up, or fit over. Noir Medical
Digital talking book playerI love to read, but I can't read normal print material anymore, I depend on audio books and magazines to keep me entertained. As a legally blind person, I have free access to many audio books and magazines from Library of Congress's BART and Colorado's talking book library. I also have access textbooks from Bookshare. All these free audio resources are in DAISY format which require a special player to play. The Digital Talking Book player is given to me by the Colorado Talking Book library. The player was specially designed to be easily operated by people who are blind or with physical handicap. All the buttons are big and with contrast color. In addition, all the buttons have speech feedback. Audio books and magazines can be downloaded from the BART site or received on a special USB flash drive sent by a local talking book library, every states have a talking book library.
Talking watchThis watch has high contrast watch face so I can see the time during day time. If I can't see the time, the watch would tell me the time and date with a push of button. There are many talking devices to help people with visual impairment. For example, blood pressure monitor, timer, kitchen and bathroom scale, etc.
Liquid Level indicatorThis very handy device hung on outside of a cup and sounds a musical tone when the liquid is about 1 inch from the top. No more overflow when I fill the cup.
Writing GuidesThese templates help me write envelopes and checks. There are other special purpose writing guides available. For example, signature guide, letter guide. The pen shown in the photo is 20/20 pen, it is essentially a bold point marker. This pen costs around $1 each, but you can use a regular permanent marker for around 30 cents each.
Top: envelop writing guide. Bottom: check writing guide
Signature guide. Have someone line up the rubber string on the signature line on a document and sign your name above the rubber string.
Record Keeping Tools
I use the MS Word program to keep my written records. I use a scanner to store the image of hardcopy documents. I use a large print address book and bold line notebook for other written records. A micro tape recorder is part of my record keeping tools.
Large print address book
Bold line notebook
Hand Held Magnifiers
Big Button ElectronicsI still have enough vision to use electronics stuffs as long as they have big buttons. You can buy many of them in low vision specialty stores but they trend to be very pricey. Instead you can find many similar big button electronics items with much lower price in typical stores. For example, the big button remote and cordless phone shown below.
High Constrast TapeI loss most of my depth preception. Change in ground level really present a safety problem for me. I use high constrast tape to mark the edge of my patio and steps outside my house. I use black and yellow tape. Depends on your vision, other color combination might work better for you.
The black and yellow tape doesn't stick to concrete too well. So I have to put down a strip of gorillo tape first on the concrete than I glue the black and yellow tape on top of the gorillo tape. Both tapes are 2 inches wide and you can buy them from Amazon or your local hardware stores.
I have used a white cane, a yellow cane and a telescopic cane. I don't like the telescopic cane at all because it would collapse when it bumps into any crack. You can get a free white cane from National Federation of The Blind. Get a free white cane Photo shows my yellow cane. Here is video on white cane usage. You can get cane travel training for your state human services department, it is usually free of charge.
Bump dots are sticker that can be glued on buttons, switches, and knobs. Those dots enable a blind person to locate and operate electronics devices by touch. Bump dots come in various sizes, colors, and shapes. There are other uses for those dots.
Bump dots in various sizes, colors, and shapes.
The buttons on this toaster oven are flat. A bump dot on the toast button allow me to locate and operate the toaster.
Portable LED Booklight
Since I can't read anymore, I found a new use for the portable LED booklight. Dining in the dark is not for me, I like to see what I am eating. If I have to eat in a dark restaurant, I would clip this booklight at the edge of the plate so I can see the food. It would draw some giggle from your friends, but who care.
The LED booklight let see what I am eating.
Flash lights are RPer's best friend. I have a flash light at almost every room in the house. I like the white LED flash lights because they very bright, the LED almost last forever and very energy efficient.
From left to right
- LED pen light using one AA battery.
- Rechargeable LED flash light double as night light.
- LED flash light using 4 AA battery.