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Tablet computer as effective as other devices at increasing reading speed

13 Jul 2017

In individuals with visual impairments, a 10-inch tablet device compares with currently used technologies in terms of improving reading rates, a study has shown. Furthermore, training with the device may lead to a significant increase in reading speed as compared with no training.

The study included 100 individuals with low vision aged between 24 and 97 years. All were literate and cognitively capable, while 57 had age-related macular degeneration. Standardized International Reading Speed Texts were given, and a comprehension assessment was subsequently performed. Reading speed on the Apple iPad 10-inch device was compared with that on a closed-circuit television (CCTV) video magnifier, on home magnification devices and against baseline measures.

Reading rates improved from baseline with the aid of all assistive devices (p<0.001), although no difference was observed in the improvements across devices (p>0.05). Taking experience into consideration, individuals with iPad experience read, on average, 30 words per minute faster than first-time users, whereas CCTV experience had no effect on reading speed.

About 285 million people worldwide have visual impairments, and the most common complaint made by affected individuals is difficulty in reading. Rehabilitation interventions for reading difficulties often involve magnification categorized as follows: low-tech, with the use of tools such as loupes, and high-tech, with the aid of electronic magnification such as closed-circuit televisions or head-mounted devices. Portable electronic devices that can be used for reading, such as the tablet computer, provide an alternative magnification tool. [Br J Ophthalmol 2011;96:614–618; PLoS One 2013;8:e80325; Vis Res 2013;90:43–51; Ophthalmology 2014;121:1655–1662.e1; J Vis Impair Blind 2009;103:210–222]

The present data show that a tablet computer is as effective as currently used technologies within low-vision rehabilitation for improving reading rates, although at a substantially lower cost, researchers said.

“While the CCTV is the current gold standard in low-vision rehabilitation, the cost makes the Apple a cheaper and more portable low-vision aid. While the iPad has some limitations in regards to the use of hard copy materials, its access to online resources, e-books and apps targeted specifically for low-vision users makes the iPad a useful tool for those with visual impairments,” they continued. 

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