There are many devices and systems available to help people with sight loss read print and look at maps or photographs. These can include small telescopes, traditional magnifying glasses, a camera and display to magnify print and change colours, or Braille which is a tactile reading and writing system. It is important to try out a device and make sure it is the right option for you before you invest in one as some can be very expensive. You can contact Vision Ireland (formerly NCBI) to try out different aids and devices.
There are a wide variety of magnifying glasses available. They provide different levels of magnification and are available in many sizes and shapes, including folding pocket magnifiers. Some also have a light to illuminate what you are looking at.
Electronic magnifiers or Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTVs) are cameras that can help magnify text or images. There are generally two types, desktop and portable.
A desktop magnifier allows you to place a document or piece of reading material under a mounted camera for it to be magnified and displayed on a monitor. Some have features that can change the text colour and contrast to make it easier to see. Some more advanced models can also read the text aloud to you as it appears on the monitor, this feature is called Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This device can be particularly useful in the workplace but can also assist with activities in the home.
Portable digital magnifiers have a camera on one side that you hold over what you are trying to read, the magnified image is displayed on the other side of the monitor. They come in a number of different screen sizes as a separate device or are also available as an app on your smartphone. Some portable video magnifiers can also connect to your own computer or laptop so that you can angle it in different directions to see something like a board or projector screen in a classroom.
Braille is a tactile reading and writing system used by some people who are blind or have a severe vision impairment. Different arrangements or tactile dots forms an alphabet.
A number of devices to support the use of Braille are available, including Braille note-takers, Braille embossers (printers) and electronic Braille displays. An information booklet about Braille is available from the NCBI.