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Smartphones can help visually impaired

  |   May 16, 2012 at 5:53 PM
CHICAGO, May 16 (UPI) -- While smartphones can be of great assistance help to the visually impaired, few vision doctors are recommending them to patients, a U.S. study says.

Researchers at Loyola University of Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine said a survey of 46 low-vision adults, with best-corrected vision ranging from 20/70 to complete blindness, found only 15 percent had a vision doctor recommend a smartphone for the devices' accessibility features.

Twenty-four of the patients, with an average age of 36, used smartphones while 30 patients, average age 67, had basic cellphones.

"Young, visually impaired patients are getting ahead of their doctors," Walter M. Jay, an ophthalmologist and senior author of the study, said in a Loyola release Wednesday.

"Low-vision specialists should be getting out in front on this rather than being behind the curve," he said.

Smartphones offer a number of accessibility features for the visually impaired, researchers said, including the ability to increase font sizes to large as 56 point, enabling users with very poor vision to read texts and e-mails, screens whose brightness can be increased significantly, and global positioning system and voice features that can help the visually impaired to navigate.

"Smartphones can dramatically improve the quality of life of people with poor vision," Jay said.

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