How to Use Your Smartphone If You Have Retinitis Pigmentosa
Smartphones allow us to easily stay in touch with loved ones, listen to music, view entertainment, and manage finances — all with the touch of a finger. But for a person with vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), using a smartphone can be challenging. Fortunately, by using low-vision aids and the phone’s accessibility features, people with RP can continue to use a smartphone no matter the extent of their vision loss.
What is Retinitis Pigmentosa?
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a genetic eye disease that causes the light-detecting cells in the retina (light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye) to break down. The symptoms of RP include reduced peripheral vision and night-blindness and sometimes a loss of central vision. In its later stages, people with RP find it difficult to read, drive and engage in many other activities.
An estimated 1 in 4,000 individuals are affected by this sight-threatening condition, and about half of the people who have RP have a family member with RP as well.
Though there is currently no cure for RP, a low vision optometrist can provide low vision aids and devices to help patients with RP continue to function at the highest level possible. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with RP, contact Dr. Colleen Mulhall, for a low vision consultation.
How Can a Person with Retinitis Pigmentosa Use a Smartphone?
Many people with RP can benefit from a smartphone’s features — by utilizing low vision aids and the phone’s accessibility features.
There are several low vision aids and devices that can help one to read the screen of a smartphone; Dr. Colleen Mulhall can help you navigate the differences of each and recommend which low vision aids best suit your needs.
Some low vision aids and devices that can help those with RP use a smartphone and see other objects close-up include:
- Bioptic telescopic glasses
- Low vision magnifying reading glasses
- Prismatic reading glasses
- Telemicroscope glasses
- Reverse telescopic glasses
- Custom-made optical systems
- Digital magnifiers or close circuit television (CCT)
- Hand-held magnifiers
Turn On Your Phone’s Accessibility Features
Most smartphones on the market have built-in software that makes their functionality accessible to the visually impaired.
Apple products tend to be popular among those with visual impairments, as all of them come with accessibility features that make the phone’s functionality not dependent on sight. Android products also have accessibility features, but not as fine-tuned as Apple’s.
By activating “VoiceOver” (on Apple products) or “TalkBack” (on Android products), you’ll be able to use your phone without needing to look at it. These settings can read all incoming messages and texts on the screen and allow the user to perform various tasks using tapping motions.
In the early stages of retinitis pigmentosa, when vision loss is at a minimum, a smartphone’s settings can be adjusted to:
- Increase the contrast between your wallpaper and your icons. Simply put, a busy wallpaper can make it difficult to locate and differentiate between app icons. A solid-color wallpaper can be the solution.
- Change font size and brightness on your phone.
- Use “voice assistants” and “text-to-speech” features to write out text.
Learning to live with vision loss can be difficult, but we are here to help. If you or a loved one suffers from impaired vision due to RP, we can offer the best low vision aids to enable you to use your smartphone and continue to do the things you love and maintain your independence. Please contact us with any inquiries or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Colleen Mulhall.
The Low Vision Center at Family Optical serves patients from Winnipeg, Grande Pointe, Lorette, Oak Bluff , and throughout Manitoba.