For millions of people around the world who have low vision, virtual reality offers a myriad of possibilities for entertainment and socialization.
Putting on a VR-powered headset can improve sight and the quality of life of those with limited vision. Not only will they get to see their favorite shows, but they’ll also get to see the faces of their loved ones.
Here, we explore how VR is serving as a sight aid for individuals with vision loss.
The Accessibility Problem of Virtual Reality
VR has come such a long way from being a vintage arcade game. From healthcare to education, it is reshaping so many industries by promoting diversity, collaboration, and mental wellness. However, it still has a long way to go in terms of accessibility and inclusivity.
For example, assistive technologies for those with low vision aren’t always compatible with VR programs. Sometimes, the audio feedback they receive isn’t enough to improve their mobility.
No matter how little, there has been some progress in this area. Lately, we’ve been seeing a growing number of VR initiatives that are making VR more inclusive and accessible for people with low vision.
Microsoft even made a research tool kit that enables developers to create programs that are accessible to people who have limited vision.
As immersive technologies continue to mature, VR might have more to offer to people with disabilities. Hopefully, developers listen more to the needs and concerns of people with disabilities to resolve the accessibility problem. Furthermore, users should have a say about VR applications, as well as the ones they use for sight aid.
Virtual Reality as a Sight Aid for Severe Vision Loss
Vision Buddy is a wearable Television Watching System designed for people with eye and vision conditions. For instance, a person with macular degeneration, glaucoma, or retinitis pigmentosa can put on the headset to watch their favorite shows. They can also adjust the setting by zooming in and out to suit their viewing needs.
Aside from entertainment purposes, audiences with vision loss can use the VR headset to work and move around with little to no assistance.
The headset uses a digital magnifier to aid users with limited vision. It has an Optical Character Recognition feature, which automatically reads written texts aloud. Whether from books, newspapers, and restaurant menus, it can help users read anywhere.
This can make day-to-day life more convenient for a person with severe vision loss. From changing the thermostat settings to making coffee, users can exercise their independence with more ease.
SightPlus by GiveVision is another VR headset that’s designed as a low vision aid. It is a clinically validated wearable device that empowers its users to rediscover everything that they love. The hands-free sight aid enables users to pick up their past hobbies or perhaps start new ones.
SightPlus is helping patients with a wide range of sight conditions, including Stargardt disease, ocular albinism, optic neuritis, and diabetic retinopathy. According to the clinical trials conducted by Moorfields Eye Hospital, 98% of patients experienced an improvement in their sight by an average of six lines on the sight chart.
Will Virtual Reality Transform the Lives of People With Disabilities?
Virtual reality is here, offering many wondrous opportunities to people with disabilities, especially those with vision loss. Although it is transforming many lives, VR has a long way to go before it becomes truly inclusive and accessible.
For VR to evolve in the right direction, diverse voices must be heard. Various concerns must be resolved, too. Ideally, people with vision loss, as well as other people with disabilities, will become more involved in the creation of VR programs.