Visual impairment can be a fairly challenging condition to cope with, whether it comes in the form of a genetic disease or an age-related problem. However, the modern market has a good number of low vision aids for you to scroll through, and use them to help you overcome visual challenges.
When the matter at hand is about your precious eyes, investing your faith and money on products can be somewhat risky, especially when it is your health, comfort and convenience at stake.
Given the numerous amount of devices available today, finding the best-suited personal fit for yourself can be a baffling task, and certainly one where you do not want to end up in disappointment.
And let us frankly admit the fact that we care about our finances, if not more, then nearly as much as we care about maintaining our eye health.
The last thing you would want is to spend your stash on a healthcare item which doesn’t serve the value for its money!
So you must be wondering how to decide which low vision aid would be your best pick?
Here’s the trick, know what to look for in your device and tick mark all those requirement boxes before you settle for the final thing!
In this article, we have listed out some of the essential questions you must NOT forget to ask your provider about the low-vision aid you are planning to purchase.
This will not just help you shortlist your desired products but also save you from an ill post-shopping experience.
1: Is the product FDA certified?
When you opt to use an automated device for medical purposes, you may be at risk for potential hazards, thus any medical device you go for must first be checked for quality assurance and user safety by a board of relevant field experts and professionals.
Typically, these experts are hired by the government and have the authority for assessing the quality standards of such devices before they are advertised throughout the market for sales.
For those of you who may not be too familiar with the systematic methods, USFDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) is a federal agency of the US which is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the control and supervision of medical devices, among other drugs and biopharmaceuticals.
So when you plan to purchase a low-vision aid device, the first thing you must ensure is whether the device in question is approved and certified by the FDA. Its certification will serve as a token of trust with which comes the assurance that it has been manufactured and tested according to a proper guideline. The low-vision aid can thus be used with guaranteed effectiveness and without fearing harm from it.
2: Does it come with an elaborate instructional manual?
Here’s a seemingly irrelevant fun fact; if you use bobby pins to fix your hair and put them in with the grooved side facing upward (like most people do), then you’re doing it wrong! Because the grooves are meant to hold the hair in place and are supposed to be facing downward.
Another fun fact is that your soda can comes with a tab that is actually designed to hold the straw in place, while you may have been wondering how to stop the straw from falling out over and over again.
But what do you get from these examples?
My point here is to highlight that a product’s user instructions are a very important factor for good user experience. While bobby pins may not be the most risky item, you must not overlook elaborate user instructions while buying a low-vision aid.
Presence of a good user manual is your indirect way of identifying the more authentic and reliable products from among an unfamiliar list of devices in the market. A low vision aid with an elaborate set of instructions will ensure that you don’t end up accidentally using it in any way that could possibly bring harm to you.
And along with that, it also ensures that you use the product to its best utility.
3: Is the low-vision aid open for trial?
Having mentioned the importance of a user manual, the next thing you should ask the salesman is whether you can check out and try the product for yourself before purchasing.
Some of the companies offer provision for a free trial before you decide to buy their product, and while we’re not saying that every device restricting you from a trial is bound to show a failing performance afterwards, it still is the best measure to guarantee that you have landed on just the right low-vision aid for your eyes.
The companies with thorough and reliable methods recognize the criticality of selling a low-vision aid device and how immensely it can impact the lives of its end-users, therefore, companies that value its consumer feedback are most likely to offer you a free consultation and trial to give you a detailed analysis of whether their product can help resolve your particular eye problem and if yes, then how?
While solving your little comfort queries along the way as they allow you to experience the functioning of their low-vision aid device.
Thus, it is highly recommended that you go for a product that you can first try out for yourself and assess how convenient it is for your use before you take your final pick.
4: Will it hinder/facilitate my social interactions?
Research findings show that visual impairment can lead to deteriorated social interactions and the risk of social exclusion for an individual, a skill which is otherwise of prime importance in establishing people’s quality of life.
When looking for a low-vision aid, whether it is for yourself, an elderly member of your family or your child, you may overlook the capacity of that low-vision aid to reinvigorate the distorted social connection that a visually impaired person experiences.
But, that, in fact should be your next point of concern once you have tick marked the other requirements from the list above.
While visual impairment can cut you off from people, a good visual aid device should possess the qualities to help you lessen this communication gap, and make it easier for you to reconnect with your peers.
Low-vision aids that require you to sit glued to a table, or restrict you the possibility of exploring the outside environment are a recommended NO, simply because instead of helping you become more unreserved and interactive, they may just have the opposite effect.
Go for such devices the use of which can be mastered independently and ones that facilitate your outdoor activities. If you feel you have a complete control over your visual incapabilities with a low-vision aid, it can boost your confidence in interacting with others in your daily routine.
5: Does it come with additional costs (e.g. paid software updates)?
Many a times, low-vision aids may come with cheaper price tags originally but unknown costs begin materializing once you have tuned it to use. An example would be of the software updates required by some of the low-vision aids, much like they are needed in a cell phone.
Before you buy, make sure your low-vision aid provider confides in you about any such features of the device that might require additional payment afterwards.
It is best if your device comes pre-programmed to install free-of-cost software updates as the developers make changes and introduce improved versions. Otherwise, your low-vision aid may have a very short-lived functioning period before it grows all old and rusty.
6: Does the parent company offer guarantee/ warranty for the device?
A 2-year warranty card may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are buying your kid a new toy, but with a low-vision aid, it definitely is!
There may be a moment when you might enter a shop and click! Right there you see the perfect low-vision aid you have been looking for, but here, we say take a moment and ask the seller if this product comes with a warranty?
If you’re wondering why we’ve put this up in the list, then it is to remind you that this is exactly the measure that will prevent you from falling into a scam, or bringing home a device that may turn out to be faulty or damaged later on, and then alas… it will be too late!
Because without the company promising you to fix any of the defects that the low-vision aid might contain, you have no one but yourself to blame and suffer the loss if any problem is encountered later on.
7: Is the device handy/ portable?
We’re not going to exaggerate, but the portability factor of a low-vision aid device is a must check when you go out to get one.
Visual impairment in itself can hamper a person from performing their daily routine tasks in a normal fashion like everyone else does (we hope not, but you can certainly attest to its pain and discomfort more than anyone), let alone the added difficulty of restricted movement caused due to the low-vision aid you use.
Make sure that your low-vision aid device is portable and easy to carry around across all settings i.e, whether you are a college student, have workplace duties, or you’re an outdoorsy person, or simply just want to be able to participate with your family and get some house chores done, all of that would only be possible if your alternate set of eyes don’t pull you permanently on a chair and table.
8: Does the device company offer training/support?
While it is not typical of all low-vision aid brands to offer continued future support after the customer has made his purchase, we recommend that you should preferably search for and choose a brand that DOES offer support, especially if you are purchasing the device for an elderly person.
As you educate yourself about the specs of the low-vision aid device and how to use it, you will frequently find yourself asking questions about it’s different functions and have other queries, that may or may not already be addressed in the instructions manual.
Ideally, some companies offer formal training programs for the low-vision aid devices that they manufacture. These training sessions, such as those provided by IrisVision for their low-vision aid glasses, are one such example. They offer the user a complete training guide when the product is purchased, and this guide aims at teaching ways of correct device handling, it’s maintenance requirements, how to navigate through its multiple features and how the person (according to their specific eye condition and age-group) are recommended to use the product in order to yield best results.
9: Does the low vision aid help overcome multiple eye problems?
As someone with visual impairment, you might encounter several minor difficulties in vision, as it happens for most people. For instance, low or blurry vision is usually paired with night vision difficulties as well. So when you look for a suitable low-vision aid for your eye condition, aim at finding devices that contain an evolutionary edge and have the capacity to cater for at least some, if not all your eye problems.
You will be surprised at how such a device can introduce a newfound sense of comfort and ease in daily life. And as an added bonus, not only will that make your life easier, it will also save you from the clutter of keeping several low-vision aids rather than storing several devices, each for assisting you through a different visual difficulty.
In other words, make sure you practically rehearse the phrase, ‘killing two birds with one stone’, so while you will be purchasing a single device, it should have all the required features to provide assistance with any or all of the eye problems that you may have.
10: Does it have OCR technology/ voice commands?
The presence of OCR feature, among other aspects, is one of the factors you must look for while purchasing a low-vision aid device.
For the visually impaired, text to speech technology works wonders, and is a feature you must not undermine for its capacity in easing out an individual’s daily struggle with low vision. If your low-vision aid comes without the option of OCR, it will have deprived you of the essential help that low-vision aids are originally designed to give.
Ask your provider if the device can read out it’s own text to the user out-loud, the voice options and quality it has, and the languages it can detect and read.
The more elaborate these features, the better!
11: Does the device offer easy internet connectivity?
With every second item in your inventory list running through web resources, it almost counts as a deprivation if your low-vision aid does not have the same quality.
Internet connectivity is a need of the hour, most work is done over the web, connecting your google drive, downloading or uploading images, reading documents etc. are some of the many tasks that will be tonnes easier if your low-vision aid has an easy connectivity to the internet.
12: Does the device have a user-friendly interface?
While this aspect may appear to be a somewhat obvious preference while buying a low-vision aid, we remind you to not overlook it when you scroll through the potential products.
Complicated interfaces tend to create the illusion of sophistication, but make sure you don’t get trapped by the trick, because they can ultimately be very annoying and of much less utility than you may imagine.
Whether the low-vision aid device is intended for use by a child, teen or an adult, in order to get the most out of all available features it is essential that the individual can comfortably navigate through the options on-screen and does not instead find himself confused as to how to operate the device. Also in such cases, the user most often misses out on several features of the device that may be present but remain out of reach because of a lack of interface understanding.
Save yourself the effort, and get a low-vision aid device with user-friendly interface which can conveniently be used across all age groups and social settings.