ELIA is a breakthrough new language for the blind. It can be mastered in a matter of hours, not months.
At the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting, researchers from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School reported on a study that found that digital tablets improve reading speeds for people with low vision. The study was made up of two separate experiments. In the first experiment, 62 people read newspaper articles in three formats – a print version, a computer printout, and on an iPad. More than half of the participants had evidence of muscular eye disease. The study found that participants read faster on the iPad than with either the newspaper or computer printout, and this held true for both readers with standard vision and those with low vision.
In the second experiment, 100 people read a book chapter in three ways – in a traditional book, on an iPad, and on an Amazon Kindle. Participants read the chapter twice on each of the tablets, once at 12 point font and once at 18 point font. When using the iPad at the 18 point font setting, participants increased their reading speed by 42 words-per-minute faster than when reading the printed book. When using the Kindle at the 18 point font setting, participants increased their speed by 12 words-per-minute faster than the printed book.
The eye’s contrast sensitivity tends to decrease as people age, and contrast sensitivity loss is a common problem for many people with low vision. A loss of contrast sensitivity makes it difficult for readers to distinguish text from the surrounding background. The researchers speculate that the iPad’s backlit screen may be important in increasing reading speed and comfort for people with low vision, since it provides more color contrast and luminosity contrast than traditional printed materials. The Kindle used in the study did not have a backlit screen, although newer Kindle models with backlit screens are now available.
Some studies suggest that e-readers may make reading easier for people with dyslexia. Instead of printing dyslexia-friendly special-editions, e-readers can allow users with dyslexia to determine their own settings to create a personalized text that is easier for them to read. A team of researchers from the University of Padova in Italy reported that extra-large spacing between letters allowed a group of dyslexic children to read text faster and with fewer errors. Extra-large spacing reduces “crowding,” in which the recognition of a letter is hindered by the presence of letters on either side. However, the standard spacing between letters works best for normal readers, who read more slowly when spacing is increased.
A study led by psychologist Beth O’Brien of Tufts University and published in the Journal of Research on Reading in 2005, found that the size of letters may also play an important part. The researchers showed both dyslexic and normal readers a passage written in increasingly larger letters, timing how long it took the participants to read each one. The children with dyslexia reached their fastest reading speed at a larger letter size. There are even fonts created specifically for dyslexic readers, such as the font Dyslexie. Some e-readers already allow users to change the font or number of words on a page, and incorporating more setting options into e-readers could help readers with dyslexia even more.