10 Oct Incredible Tools for Vision Loss as you Age
The older people that come to me do not want to learn Braille. Their friends do not want to learn Braille either. They love the idea, but for whatever reason, that is not going to be the route for them. They want something that will give them their local news, which they get from their TV's or radio; they want to be able to read books, write letters, email, or social network. People older than 70 are generally more limited.
Therefore, I really tailor lessons for those who have goals later in life. They do not want to go back to school, but they want the tools that will give them the ability to keep in contact with their friends and read books. My lessons are guided by the willingness of older people to learn something new.
First, I get them signed up with their State Book and Braille Library. Here they get digital players and books, allowing them to immediately begin listening to their favorite books again. The players are incredibly easy to learn and even my oldest clients have learned how and LOVE the player books.
Second, if a person already knows how to use a computer, then they know the keyboard. I then add talking software and teach them how to use it according to their needs. We start with WORD and writing letters. I teach them how to type out addresses on envelopes so they can send the letter snail mail. Once, that basic step is learned we advance to learning how to send a letter via email. In general, people younger than 70 prefer sending letters by email. As older people progress in their lessons, we can move onto more sophisticated adventures like social networking. However, many older people also have a palsy or tremors in their hands and cannot type any more. The easy solution is hooking them up with something like JSAY, where the person talks and the computer types out what they are saying and can also read it back.
The next is the ability to write checks and pay bills. Macular degeneration is one of the primary reasons for age related sight loss. A CCTV-or enlarging screen tool allows people to see through the cloud in their central vision. I have seen CCTVs extended this ability to "see" for as many as 15-20+ more years. You can change the contrast of the computer monitor to suit your needs and the advances of the CCTV have improved tremendously. One of the most incredible pieces of equipment I have come across is the MyReader by Humanware. It gives you the ability to take a picture of a book or other text and put it into read back format with auto-scroll. You can increase or decrease the speed of it moving across your screen automatically as well as the font size. My oldest clients easily learn this tool and LOVE it. Another type of scanning system is the SARA by Freedomscientific (there are other brands like this also), that will scan and read back the information for those who have lost all ability to see print.
For the Fan who loves to go to sports events or just wants to sit across the room to watch TV, there is the JORDY. It truly is like something from Star Trek but it works to see things in the distance. I have tried something like this with younger students, below the age of 20, and though it works great to see board work and anything else they want in the distance, they will not wear it. It makes them "too different." Ironically, their sighted friends think it is the greatest thing in the world.
Life is all about perspective.
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