New research shows that in addition to being generally nifty, tablet computers make it easier for people with moderate vision loss to read, thanks to
displays that are clearer and brighter than print on paper.
That’s according to a new study by New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, which tracked the reading speeds of 100 subjects with moderate central vision impairment when using iPads and Kindle tablets.
Subjects reading text in 18-point font on the iPad gained at least 42 words per minute in
their average reading speed compared to print, while subjects reading the same size text on a Kindle gained an average of 12 words per minute compared to their print reading speed.
Patients with the worst vision (which the study defined as 20/40 or worse in both eyes) showed the biggest improvements when reading on tablet devices instead of print text. People with the worst vision loss also said the iPad provided the most comfortable reading experience.
The study authors suggest that back-illumination may be the key to the iPad’s improved readability, because it enhances the contrast between words and background.
Daniel Roth, M.D., an associate clinical professor at Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine and the study’s lead author, stated: “Our findings show that at a relatively low cost, digital tablets can improve the lives of people with vision loss and help them reconnect with the larger world.”
These results are especially significant because tablet ownership is increasing among older adults, who are more likely to suffer vision loss. According to data released by Pew’s Internet & American Life Project, 27% of American adults ages 50-64 and 13% of adults ages 65+ owned a tablet computer in August of this year.
Those figures are up from 15%
and 7%, respectively, in January of this year, and just 4% and 2%, respectively, in November 2010.