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Enhancing reading in people with Macular Degeneration

Enhancing reading in people with Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration impairs central vision, and therefore, reading. Professor Walker’s research has led to the development of freely available apps as reading aids.

Enhancing reading in people with Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is the most common cause of vision loss in the industrial world, affecting over 600,000 people in the UK and an estimated 196 million people worldwide. It is a progressive condition that impairs central vision, which results in difficulties in performing visual tasks, such as recognising another person, watching TV and reading. Reading difficulty is one of the most commonly reported consequences of Macular Degeneration that impacts on the individuals’ quality of life, with negative consequences for a range of tasks of everyday living. The MDevReader and Ev-platform apps could help hundreds-of-thousands of people with macular disease to read the news and keep updated with current affairs and has been described by users, who include Britain's best loved actress, Dame Judi Dench, as "enormously beneficial."

Professor Walker’s research has investigated reading in macular degeneration when text is presented in a horizontally scrolling format. This research led to the development of apps that aid reading by presenting books, magazines, news and email in a horizontal scrolling format (like a news feed). These tools have been used widely by people with macular degeneration and their therapists, dramatically improving reading ability and experience.  Until recently, the main alternative to reading was to substitute text with audio, which is of limited value for elderly people with poor hearing.

Developed in collaboration with the Macular Society

Professor Walker developed the MDevReader app in collaboration with the Macular Society UK. It was launched for Apple iPads in 2012, and extended to include Android tablets in 2014. In 2018, he launched EV-platform (that presents current news and email). Both tools are freely available reading aids for macular degeneration. The impact of the MDevReader and EV-platform is to enhance the reading experience of people with Macular Degeneration, and therefore to support their independence.

Professor Walker is continuing his research through a Macular Society studentship that will inform the wider academic and technology community of the potential of scrolling text for reading in people with visual loss.

Listen to Professor Walker discuss the app with a visually-impaired user on BBC Radio 4’s In Touch programme.

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