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Old 05-19-2007, 08:43 AM   #1
mogui
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Question eReaders for the elderly

I realized tonight I have eFriends here. How remarkable! Here is something to ponder.

When I bought my Sony Reader in the US last month, I had the notion it might be good for my mother. She has macular degeneration, and at 93 her reading days are over. Her problem is getting enough light to distinguish the letters. I copied her address book into a new book writ large so she can call her friends and family.

I showed her the Reader with the text at the largest setting. She was able to make out many of the words, but with ambiguities. The Reader is not usable for her.

This got me thinking about some questions regarding how we might extend the reading life of many of the elderly. The baby boomers will soon be there. That includes me and perhaps you. There are many of us potentially facing this problem. Here are some thoughts and questions.

* Maybe backlighting would help. Perhaps if the font size could be manipulated more and the backlighting could be made normal or reversed, a combination could be found that would aid deteriorating vision.

* Maybe a moving highlight, from word to word, could help them focus on decoding the word. Another button might use a text-to-speech engine to enunciate the word.

* Our eyes are more sensitive to motion at the periphery. maybe if the highlighted word flickered, it might be readable in peripheral vision.

* Someone has experimented with a set of vibrating points pressed against the tongue, which is quite touch-sensitive. It is said that one quickly adapts to this new "visual" input. Is that also true for old tongues which might have less sensitivity? How about the Irex Lingual Reader? How would we manufacture a tongue plate? I think I ran across this technology in Jeff Hawkins "Intelligence".

Some years ago I was sitting in an opthalmologist's office having just received the dilating eyedrops. As my eyes began to lose focus I wondered how I might keep reading my book. I tore a dark piece of paper out of a magazine and made a tiny pinhole in it. Then I was able to continue my reading.

I realized that a set of universal glasses could be constructed out of a grid of pinholes. My pinhole glasses actually worked, but required really bright light because, of course, not much light came through each pinhole. This is interesting, but probably not a fruitful path for this train of thought.

Ideas eFriends?

Last edited by mogui; 05-19-2007 at 08:52 AM.
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Old 05-19-2007, 02:11 PM   #2
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Hey mogui, what size font did you use for her address book. My 87 year old mother has the same problem. I used MS Word to create 36 pt. font for her in .rtf format. This worked for a while but her eyes went down fast & she no longer reads even at that size.

The nice thing about .rtf is that you can experiment with it fairly quickly and find a good size. Good luck.
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Old 05-20-2007, 01:44 AM   #3
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I hand-wrote it with a heavy black pen. Each letter was about thumbnail-sized. I used a box around each surname and an underline under each given name. It was alphabetized in a spiral notebook and tabbed with the same sized letters.

I found myself wishing I had a laptop with me so I could experiment with fonts, sizes and backgrounds as you did. It slips my mind now, but my mother is using some kind of nutritional approach to slowing the degeneration.

Last edited by mogui; 05-20-2007 at 01:46 AM.
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Old 05-20-2007, 08:40 AM   #4
NatCh
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My 90 year old grandmother had some problems with macular degeneration, but it was the kind that responded well to a laser treatment, so after that, and a bit of cataract surgery, she's actually reading like a 60 year old again.
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Old 05-20-2007, 08:36 PM   #5
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You can't get backlighting on e-ink, because it is opaque, but a different screen technology that offers backlighting might help, as it would have a higher contrast ratio. Does a strong light seem to help her read, if the text is large enough?

The iLiad, with its larger screen and greater control over font sizes (anything PDF will support) might be worth a look, or maybe one of the other new Linux e-ink devices that seem to be popping up everywhere we look these days.
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