The value of tablets as reading aids for individuals with central visual field loss: an evaluation of eccentric reading with static and scrolling text

Robin Walker*, Lauren Bryan, Hannah Harvey, Afsane Riazi, Stephen J. Anderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Purpose: Technological devices such as smartphones and tablets are widely available and increasingly used as visual aids. This study evaluated the use of a novel app for tablets (MD_evReader) developed as a reading aid for individuals with a central field loss resulting from macular degeneration. The MD_evReader app scrolls text as single lines (similar to a news ticker) and is intended to enhance reading performance using the eccentric viewing technique by both reducing the demands on the eye movement system and minimising the deleterious effects of perceptual crowding. Reading performance with scrolling text was compared with reading static sentences, also presented on a tablet computer.
Methods: Twenty-six people with low vision (diagnosis of macular degeneration) read static or dynamic text (scrolled from right to left), presented as a single line at high contrast on a tablet device. Reading error rates and comprehension were recorded for both text formats, and the participant’s subjective experience of reading with the app was assessed using a simple questionnaire.
Results: The average reading speed for static and dynamic text was not significantly different and equal to or greater than 85 words per minute. The comprehension scores for both text formats were also similar, equal to approximately 95% correct. However, reading error rates were significantly (p=0.02) less for dynamic text than for static text. The participants’ questionnaire ratings of their reading experience with the MD_evReader were highly positive and indicated a preference for reading with this app compared with their usual method.
Conclusions: Our data show that reading performance with scrolling text is at least equal to that achieved with static text and in some respects (reading error rate) is better than static text. Bespoke apps informed by an understanding of the underlying sensorimotor processes involved in a cognitive task such as reading have excellent potential as aids for people with visual impairments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-464
Number of pages6
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
Volume36
Issue number4
Early online date7 Apr 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016 The Authors Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of College of Optometrists.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funding: ESRC

Keywords

  • eccentric viewing
  • scrolling text
  • reading
  • low vision
  • macular degeneration

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