Monday, June 28, 2010

The Right Assistive Technology Tool Makes a Very Helpful Gift

Dear LilacGal,

Could you please tell me which text magnification reading device would be best as a 75th Birthday gift for my mother? She needs font that is about an inch high, but we see so many different products available, it's hard to know what would be best for her. I've looked into handheld devices that show a few inch-high words at a time, text-to-speech readers, large book-viewing machines that sit on a desk, and I've seen some with a scanner that puts the reading page on a TV or monitor screen. When you ran nursing homes, you must've seen which of these were most useful to your residents. My mother would love to be able to read her morning paper and favorite books again, but she also needs to be able to see her prescription labels and read her bills and letters. Is there anything that will do all that?

PS - We've got the Cool Giving all wrapped up! Her granddaughter is coming to stay for two weeks! That will be bliss for my mother - we just need to decide on the right "Hot Gift"!
Agnes L in MA

Dear Agnes,

You are so right about all the new assistive technology devices out there! With the right device, people with low vision can read newspapers, medicine bottles, write checks and letters, read books and see photos clearly, thanks to the new video magnifiers that have come out in the last few years. But what's the right device? That depends on the person's needs: Is he a student? Does she need a portable device to carry with her? Does he need to use a computer for business or Internet viewing, or is he often at home, where he can use a TV screen for his reading? Is she a casual arm-chair reader, or does she need the finest equipment available for extended, detailed desk reading? Knowing the needs and interests of the person to whom you'll give the gift of renewed reading ability, you'll be able to pick from this selection of text magnifying aids, going by their features and price.

The Hot Gifts

If your person just needs to see text on his computer more clearly, here is a video showing the magnifying ability of the MS Wireless Laser 5000 Mouse. As you will see in this video, it works just like a regular mouse until the person points and clicks to magnify text clearly.

Moving up in features and price, the Carson DR-200 ezRead Digital Reader turns a TV into a low vision aid with 7.5x magnification on a 21 inch set. It shows the page or object in full color, is easy to hold, and with its LED illumination, clearly shows all parts of the page or item.  The DigitalReader connects to the video input of the TV with an extra long video cable and power cord. This is a practical and affordable reading solution for many seniors who enjoy armchair reading. I've given it to several low vision friends who would never be comfortable reading at a desk with a large desktop device. They find it lightweight and good for reading everything from nutritional labels on cans, to magnifying the latest photos of the grandkids.  You can see another picture of the Carson at the top of this article.

The Wireless Page to TV Magnifier, while similar to the Carson DR-200, scans written materials and sends them wirelessly to a TV set in real time, magnifying them up to 25X so the person can easily see fine print. At $149.95, it's twice the cost, but if the gift recipient needs the greater magnification or prefers the wireless feature, this page magnifier will make her very happy.

There are so many handheld video magnifiers, but the one I recommend for added useful features is the Pebble Portable Rechargable Hand Video Magnifier. The handle can fold, or extend out about an inch longer. With 3 Magnification settings and LED illumination that can light up the image if the person is in a dark restaurant, the Pebble comes with a case for travel and has a few different color modes: Regular full color, black/white, reverse (white on black), enhanced black/white, and a yellow on blue color mode which is helpful for those who need this color contrast to see clearly. The Pebble uses 2 AA High-Capasity Rechargable batteries, and has an adapter for recharging.

A person using the Bierley Monomouse CCTV Full Color Computer Magnifier with Reverse Mode can change from black print on white to white on black, which is easier for anyone with acute light sensitivity. The Monomouse connects to a PC or laptop/notebook computer.  I suggested this device to a friend who runs an independent living facility near my home: Her computer-using residents can't speak highly enough of the clarity of text and graphics they can see with this system. Several of the residents are happily learning to use a computer, now that they can see the screen clearly at last!

Now we climb to a more rarefied atmosphere for these last two topnotch but expensive machines: The Presto 15 Inch LCD Auto Focus Desktop Video Magnifierand the Freedom Machine Desktop Video Magnifier.

The Presto features a stylish,15" color LCD flat panel design. The auto focus zoom magnification is able to help most people with age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, RP, or other low vision conditions.The extended travel x -y moveable table (16" x 12" travel) allows independent vertical and horizontal sliding. Presto has simple controls: Press a button to increase or decrease magnification, change the enhancement level, or select Color, B / W or Reverse image.  The low vision person can read daily mail, browse magazine articles, read prescription bottles, view family photographs, sign checks and greeting cards, address envelopes, read recipes, food labels and cooking instructions. There's no assembly required, and it features 2.5x to 40x magnification.

 If you can afford it, this last reading device is the best desktop video magnifier I've seen in person: The Freedom Machine Desktop Video Magnifier, which runs from $2,400 for the 17 Inch screen to $2,995 for the 26 Inch screen. The Freedom Machine has the clearest contrast and most powerful magnification for those with low vision and macular degeneration. The full, no-glare high-definition screen gives the clearest, most comfortable ability to read the newspaper or a favorite novel, view the mail or family photos, write out bills or do this week's crossword puzzle.  No matter what size monitor, from 17 up to 28 inches, the picture quality is brilliant and clear from corner to corner, in bright living color. The precision glass optics are so crisp that the reading material on the reading tray shows a true image on the screen, with a wide zoom range. The Freedom Machine control panel features a color coded console that provides contrast and performance. It has high profile dials that provide a crisp responsive feel and buttons for accessing specialty features. The smooth gliding XY reading table has two braking levers that give complete control of various table positions, and ball bearing table movement. Of all the machines I've compared when recommending a top of the line product for people of any age with low vision, I believe the Freedom Machine Desktop Video Magnifiers, shown below, really do set the industry standard for desktop reading machines.

The Cool Giving

Agnes, I hope this comparison has helped you and other Readers of HotGiftsforCoolGiving choose the right hot gift, the best reading magnifier for your mother. I wish her the happiest of 75th birthdays, with renewed ability to read and continue to be independent, and highlighted by the greatest cool gift of all, now that she will have you and her granddaughter by her side for an extended visit!

No comments: