How this Reading App is Changing the Lives of Visually Impaired Students

The world of employment is not what it used to be. More and more, we see entry level positions requiring a Bachelor’s degree as the minimum education. Earning a BA is no easy feat! Ask anyone who has gone through those long days in the library and pulled all-nighters to finish those 10-page essays.

It has become increasingly apparent how much we value education. But what happens when you’re visually impaired and can’t receive the higher education required for the job you want? Modern technology and trends may have a new answer.

With all of our technical advances, it’s no surprise that there’s an app on the rise designed specifically for university students with visual impairments. Everyone deserves the chance to receive higher education if they want to. Just because we live in a highly visual world doesn’t mean those who have visual impairments should be cast aside.

The App: Spotlight Gateway

How this Reading App is Changing the Lives of Visually Impaired StudentsThe app, called Spotlight Gateway, is specifically designed with those with low vision in mind. The app, in collaboration with Bookshare, offers over 500,000 books and textbooks to US students with impaired vision. This is the largest collection of textbooks available to those with visual impairments.

Spotlight Gateway is skilfully designed to help with various degrees of low vision. It comes equipped with features such as text to speech, digital braille and enlarged fonts. As of now, the app is only available on the iPad. But, there are hopes to make it available across all iOS and perhaps android devices. That way, everyone with impaired vision can make the most of their education.

Requirements

Not everyone has access to this program, which offers free access to over half a million textbooks. It is exclusively for those with vision impairments. Before signing up, you must have your eyes evaluated by a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

An ophthalmologist must approve you for the program before registering. Those who qualify for the program will have a visual acuity of 20/40 or less or have partial vision loss.

However, if you qualify, you are granted free access to all the books available on Bookshare no matter your age. Though the main focus is on university students because of the amount of reading to be done at that level, students of any age with vision impairments can benefit.

Once approved for the program, students will be contacted by a Spotlight Gateway representative for a training session. This session will include learning how to work with an iPad (if you’ve never used on before) and how to make the most out of the new app based on your personal level of sight.

For more information about the program, talk to your eye doctor about getting a referral.

Low Vision and Education

Most of the first things we learn in school as children are how to read, write, identify colors, solve math problems, and many more visual learning skills. For children with vision problems, this only makes their time in school very difficult and discouraging.

Many people with vision impairments that go uncorrected or who lack the resources to adapt to their visual learning world often end up leaving school. However, the workforce is no cake walk. Many low-income jobs require sharp vision for handling machinery, moving heavy items and much more.

People living with low vision and other vision impairments need the support of eye doctors all over the country. There’s a stigma that surrounds people with vision problems, deeming them disabled.

However, with technology like the Spotlight Gateway app, new doors are opening for people with low vision. It was with the help of the AAO that the learning world, which has always been visual, can now be accessed by those with vision impairments.

Tips for Living with Low Vision and Vision Impairments

Living with a vision impairment can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to prevent you from doing the things you love. Living with low vision is all about finding ways to adapt.

One great way to do this is to do is replace your home’s lighting with strong LED lights. This will help you see things better. Labeling stairs and light switches with tape is also another way to clearly identify things quickly.

Plenty of apps are available for both android and iOS devices to aid in reading eBooks, as well as articles on the internet and social media posts.

Contrasting colors can also make seeing things easier. For example, if you love to cook, but have trouble maneuvering around the kitchen, buy kitchen accessories that sharply contrast the color of your countertop. Also, make sure to put tape on the dull side of your chef’s knives so you know which side is sharp.

Living with impaired vision is all about adapting. Sometimes adapting to certain living conditions can be easier than others. But when it comes to education, the current structure of things makes it near impossible for someone with low vision to receive the education they want.

With new apps like Spotlight Gateway that offer free services to those with vision impairments, it will change the course of learning for future students. This not only helps students to adapt to their academic environment, but it also encourages more visually impaired students to pursue an academic career.

If you or someone you know is visually impaired and would like to participate in the program, ask your doctor for a referral or seek out a member of the AAO for further information.

It’s important that we all support those with vision impairments. We all deserve a chance at an education.

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About Orlin Sorensen

My vision started to get blurry as a young teenager. Soon I was wearing glasses for just about everything. This was a hard blow for me because I had always dreamed of becoming a U.S. Navy fighter pilot which required perfect vision without glasses or surgery. But I wasn't ready to give up on my dreams, so I looked into every possible alternative which led me to eye exercises. Through daily vision training and eye exercises, I improved my vision from 20/85 to 20/20 and passed the Navy's visual acuity test. In fact Men's Health declared this one of the "Greatest Comebacks of All Time!" Now, I'm sharing exactly how I did it with the program that helped me so people like you can improve your vision safely and naturally, without glasses, contacts or laser surgery.

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