9 Reading Devices for the Visually Impaired

If you experience difficulty reading due to poor eyesight, you are far from alone. Many people struggle with their vision, particularly as they age. Fortunately, many devices can help you read easily.  

It can be challenging to know where to start if your vision makes reading a challenge, and it’s not always practical to purchase every book you want to read in super-sized font. Read on to learn about nine devices to help the visually impaired among us read without pain or difficulty. 

Use A Magnifying Glass 

Traditional magnifying glasses are among the most affordable, widely accessible devices to assist in reading for people with low vision. They are especially great tools since you can stick them in your pocket or bag and have them handy wherever you go. They are available for as low as two dollars, so this is a great device that you can have handy in every room of your house. 

These days, many of them come with additional features to make reading even more accessible. These can include:

  • Wearable strap 
  • Height-adjustable mounts
  • Built-in lights. 

To keep your hands available for flipping pages, reaching for your coffee, or taking notes, some modern models are now even hands-free

Buy A Pen Scanner

Pen scanners are a revolutionary, game-changing tool. Some of the attractive features of these scanners are that they are:

  • Portable
  • Lightweight
  • Completely self-contained

 You don’t need to be concerned about having access to an internet connection or a bulky computer. It’s as simple as running the pen over the text of your book, magazine, or the back of the cereal box, and then the word will be read aloud to you.

Other bonus features of this product include the following:

  • The ability to save what you’ve recorded and upload it to a USB or computer. 
  • It can read and speak in up to a dozen languages, from English or Spanish, to German or Chinese.
  • Best of all, if you come across an unfamiliar word, this device can serve as a dictionary and read the definition of the unknown word to you. 

Download Accessible Software Applications 

Accessible software applications, or screen readers, are software program that read all of the text on a computer screen using a synthesized voice. Many of these programs also have the capability to convert written text into braille. Some of them also work by just taking a picture of the text that you’d like to read, so it can be convenient when out of the house. While not every website or software application is accessible for conversion by screen reader users, this has been changing over the last few years. 

This incredible software is now available to download on your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device. No matter what kind of device you’re using, there is a voice-to-text software available for you:

  • On Windows PC: JAWS and NVDA
  • On Android Devices: TalkBack and Select-to-Speak
  • On Apple Devices (MacOS and iOS): VoiceOver 
  • On Echo (Amazon Services): VoiceView 

Learn to Use a Braille Device 

Braille, a tactile writing system designed for the visually impaired, can be a valuable tool. Though it was invented hundreds of years ago, there is new braille related technology emerging all the time. These days, Braille devices are increasingly being made more affordable. 

Braille does involve a bit of a learning curve. However, it’s a great tool for those who know how to use it or are interested in learning. There is a wide range of braille devices to choose from. These include tablets with built-in braille to pocket-sized braille displays connecting to computers and smartphones via Bluetooth. There is an assortment of modern devices to make reading braille more accessible and widespread than ever. 

Purchase a Video Magnifier 

Video magnifiers, or closed-circuit television systems, can magnify text up to sixty times the original size! The process involves using a camera to transfer an image onto a larger viewing platform, such as a television or computer screen. They come with a wide range of specifications so that you can customize it to your needs. Choose the kind of focus, zoom lenses, mounts, and more. You can select a model at a price point that works for you, as prices range from four hundred to four thousand dollars. 

In addition to the variety of features to choose from, you have the option of hand-held or stand-mounted versions of these cameras. The hand-held is a great choice for it’s portability, while the stand-mounted offers a nice sturdy option for a home office or permanent workstation. 

Borrow a Digital Talking-Book Player from the NLS 

The National Library Service offers this amazing free resource for any registered users who cannot read regular print materials. You can borrow their playback equipment on an extended loan with audio capabilities to read aloud books from NLS digital talking books and Learning Ally.

Besides being free to borrow, these machines have many attractive features that make them easy to use: 

  • Large buttons
  • Braille lettering next to the controls
  • Sleep timer 
  • Audio instructions
  • Bookshelf feature for cartridges containing multiple books 

The digital talking-book player from the NLS is a fantastic option for those who are on a budget. It’s also great to borrow for a time if you aren’t yet ready to decide which device is the right long-term investment for you.

See the World Through Electronic Eyewear

Electronic eyewear is a super high-tech solution to the problem of low vision. Wireless and hands free, its strapped onto the user’s head where it can sit comfortably all day. It’s a great option for hours of use since reading isn’t always relegated to a couple hours of reading a book. Reading is something many of us constantly do all day, from reading packaging at the store to street signs to documents at work. You can even zoom in 24x, making reading the fine print a breeze, even for people with low eyesight. 

This incredible device works by stimulating synaptic activity in the eyes. It uses a camera and smart algorithms combined with high-resolution screens to increase the visual information sent to the brain. This helps compensate for gaps in users’ fields of view. 

Utilize A Reading Telescope

These nifty devices look like miniature versions of real telescopes, and they can be hand-held or mounted onto your normal glasses. One of the reading telescope benefits is apparent if you experience difficulty with both your near and distant vision. You can wear your prescription glasses as normal, and use the telescopes when it’s time to read. This avoids the potential distraction of bifocals. 

There are two kinds of wearable telescopes. While their field of view is a bit narrow, the Galilean models are great because they are:

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Come in fixed-focus or focusable versions

While not as compact as the Galilean version, the Keplerian telescopes feature:

  • A field of view that’s twice as large as their counterparts
  • Focusable lens but are not as compact of a design

Both devices have their pros and cons. But at the same time they both will help you without going into a bifocal glass.

Get High-Powered Reading Glasses

For some visually impaired readers, good old-fashioned reading glasses might be the best option, whether you buy standard reading glasses or require bifocals. Reading through these high-powered lenses can require a bit of adjustment. You’ll still need to hold the material closer to your face than normal. 

This is a great option to discuss with your eye doctor to determine if it’s right for you. An optometrist can test your eyes and provide the correct strength prescription for your individual needs. 

Modern Technology Affords Lots of Options

Modern technology has engineered some truly spectacular reading devices for the visually impaired. There are also many lower-tech and low-cost options to choose from. Hopefully with all of the devices listed in this article, you’ve been able to find one or more devices that are the perfect fit for you! You’re well on your way to clear, strain-free reading. 

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this Blog article are not intended to amount to advice, and you should not rely on any of the contents of this Blog article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this Blog article. OccupationaltherapyBlog disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this Blog article. 

Article References









Braille Technology:What’s new and Emerging?

Options for Reading Print with Vision Loss


I'm a Neurological Occupational Therapist and Founder of HT Neuro Rehab an Holistic & Person-Centred Adult Rehabilitation in London. I"m fully registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT). I have founded HT Neuro Rehab to provide clinical Occupational Therapy services to adults with neurological conditions, brain injuries, major trauma, upper limb retraining and rehabilitation, Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness (PDoC) and Functional Neurological Disorders (FND). My practice provides support, training, and guidance to both the patient and their families and caregivers. My goal is to enable each patient to achieve their personal ability, mobility, and independence goals while cultivating a long-term support network that is capable and prepared to engage in the rehabilitation journey.

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