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World Sight Day 2019: Devices To Help The Vision Impaired

World Sight Day is observed on 10 October every year. Also termed as WSD, the annual day of awareness is held on the second Thursday of October with the aim of focusing global attention on blindness and vision impairment. The theme for the year 2019 is Vision First!

Initiated by the SightFirst campaign of Lions Club International Foundation in 2000, World Sight Day has been incorporated into Vision 2020 and is coordinated by International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in cooperation with the World Health Organization.

Image source: MIT News

The first World Sight Day was observed in 2000 and had no theme to it, which continued till the year 2004. In 2005, the first ever theme-centered WSD was introduced with the theme, 'The Right To Sight'.

World Sight Day aims to raise public awareness of issues surrounding blindness and visual impairment, influence Governments, and in particular Health Ministers to participate in and donate funds to blindness prevention programmes, educate people about blindness prevention and to generate support for Vision 2020 programme and activities [1] [2] .

On this WSD, let us take a look at the amazing technological advancements in the field of eye-care which have aided in helping the visually impaired.

Devices To Help The Vision Impaired

Beyond Braille, there is a world of technology and devices that have been a great benefit for the visually impaired. Here is a list of assistive devices that are designed to make it easier for the visually impaired to see [6] .

1. Talking devices

These are devices that provide voice output so strong, they help individuals with vision impairment function with ease [7] . Talking devices such as watches and clocks are available for easy time-telling. Talking kitchen scales help with accurate measurement in the kitchen while cooking. Likewise, talking clocks are also available which make it easier to get up and go on about one's day without much difficulty [8] .

2. Materials with large prints

This is applicable for individuals with blurred vision and not for ones with blindness. These products make it easier for the individual to read clearly without mistaking the words or letters. Books, calendars, playing cards, songbooks, board games and watches with large prints are helpful for individuals with vision impairment [6] [9] .

3. Magnifying devices

For an individual with vision impairment, magnifying devices are extremely useful because they help to see the objects bigger in size, thereby making it clearer for the individuals. Some of the magnifying devices prescribed for individuals with vision impairment are mentioned below [10] .

  • Prescription devices
  • Magnifying sheets and glasses
  • Lamps with in-built magnification devices
  • Close circuit magnification devices

4. Kitchen equipment

Going about the normal and usual day-to-day activities can be a bit difficult for an individual with vision impairment than one with normal vision. Kitchen equipment specially made for the visually impaired have played a major role in easing their life. Some of the kitchen devices prescribed for individuals with vision impairment are mentioned below [10] [8] .

  • Plates with a sloping end enable the spoon or fork to be pushed towards one end.
  • Plate guards can prevent spillage and assist with getting food onto cutlery.
  • Knife guides help in the safe cutting.
  • Liquid level sensors give an audible signal when a cup or glass is full to prevent spillage.

5. General household items

Apart from the technological innovations in the kitchen, there are normal household devices that help visually impaired individuals [11] .

  • Phones that use finger guides and large button phones allow a larger surface for the visually impaired person to feel the correct buttons when dialling. The larger text sizes also make it easier for the individual.
  • Coin and cash identifiers aid with sorting money by touch and assist with organisation.

Apart from the aforementioned, various devices such as AI glasses, Braille ebook reader, FingerReader, 3D printing are some of the ways in which technology has helped in making the lives of the visually impaired better [12] .

Globally, 36 Million People Are Blind!

According to studies and reports, 36 million people are blind, globally. 253 million people have moderate or severe distance vision impairment, out of which 75 per cent are avoidable. However, the prevalence of blindness and vision impairment combined has dropped from 4.58 per cent in 1990 to 3.37 per cent in 2015 [3] .

Out of the total visually challenged individuals, 89 per cent live in low and middle-income countries and out which 55 per cent are women. Consequently, while visual impairment affects people of all ages, it is mostly reported in older people (aged over 50).

However, the entrance of technology into the spectrum of healthcare has been a boon. With assistive technologies constantly improving, a range of products has emerged that uses cutting-edge technology that prioritises on intuitive functionality and considers social context [4] [5] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Hennig, A., Kumar, J., Singh, A. K., Ansari, A., Singh, S., Gurung, R., & Foster, A. (2002). World Sight Day and cataract blindness. British journal of ophthalmology, 86(7), 830-831.
  2. [2] Tan, D. (2012). World Sight Day: Singapore's contribution to alleviating corneal blindness. Annals of the Academy of Medicine-Singapore, 41(10), 427.
  3. [3] Ackland, P. (2012). The accomplishments of the global initiative VISION 2020: The Right to Sight and the focus for the next 8 years of the campaign. Indian journal of ophthalmology, 60(5), 380.
  4. [4] Su, J., Rosenzweig, A., Goel, A., de Lara, E., & Truong, K. N. (2010, September). Timbremap: enabling the visually-impaired to use maps on touch-enabled devices. In Mobile HCI (pp. 17-26).
  5. [5] Gori, M., Cappagli, G., Tonelli, A., Baud-Bovy, G., & Finocchietti, S. (2016). Devices for visually impaired people: High technological devices with low user acceptance and no adaptability for children. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 69, 79-88.
  6. [6] Elmannai, W., & Elleithy, K. (2017). Sensor-based assistive devices for visually-impaired people: current status, challenges, and future directions. Sensors, 17(3), 565.
  7. [7] Caspo, A., Wersényi, G., & Jeon, M. (2016). A survey on hardware and software solutions for multimodal wearable assistive devices targeting the visually impaired. Acta Polytechnica Hungarica, 13(5), 39.
  8. [8] Radecki, A., Bujacz, M., Skulimowski, P., & Strumillo, P. (2017, September). Interactive sonification of images on mobile devices for the visually impaired. In 2017 Signal Processing: Algorithms, Architectures, Arrangements, and Applications (SPA) (pp. 239-242). IEEE.
  9. [9] Lefeuvre, K., Totzauer, S., Bischof, A., Kurze, A., Storz, M., Ullmann, L., & Berger, A. (2016, October). Loaded dice: exploring the design space of connected devices with blind and visually impaired people. In Proceedings of the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (p. 31). ACM.
  10. [10] Hu, M., Chen, Y., Zhai, G., Gao, Z., & Fan, L. (2019). AN OVERVIEW OF ASSISTIVE DEVICES FOR BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE. International Journal of Robotics and Automation, 34(5).
  11. [11] Lodh, T., Subramaniam, A., & Paswan, A. K. (2016, November). Ultrasound based assistive mobility devices for the visually-impaired. In 2016 IEEE 7th Power India International Conference (PIICON) (pp. 1-6). IEEE.
  12. [12] Marston, J., & Bentzen, B. L. B. (2018). -Evaluating the Effectiveness of Assistive Travel and Wayfinding Devices for Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. In Assistive Technology for Blindness and Low Vision (pp. 151-178). CRC Press.
Story first published: Tuesday, October 8, 2019, 17:33 [IST]
Read more about: vision eye care eye health
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