July 2019
Volume 60, Issue 9
Open Access
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2019
Can assistive digital technologies boost wellbeing in people with sight loss?
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Parisa Eslambolchilar
    School of Computer Science and Informatics, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
  • Kirsty Hill
    School of Psychology, Swansea University, Swansea, United Kingdom
  • Tom H Margrain
    School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Parisa Eslambolchilar, None; Kirsty Hill, None; Tom Margrain, None
  • Footnotes
    Support  None
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science July 2019, Vol.60, 4037. doi:https://doi.org/
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      Parisa Eslambolchilar, Kirsty Hill, Tom H Margrain; Can assistive digital technologies boost wellbeing in people with sight loss?. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2019;60(9):4037. doi: https://doi.org/.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Purpose : The purpose of this study was to understand how people with sight loss feel about the use of assistive digital technologies (ADT). Specifically, whether contemporary ADTs meet their needs, what barriers to the use of ADTs exist and how ADTs might promote wellbeing.

Methods : Twenty-four individuals with low vision participated in three semi-structured focus groups led by two trained facilitators. Group 1 included 5 younger adults (18-30 years of age), group 2 included 8 participants aged 31-65 and group 3 included 11 participants aged >65. Participants were asked open ended questions about the psychological impact of sight loss, wellbeing and relationships. Participants were also asked about their use of ADT and what impact ADT had on everyday life. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim, coded using NVIVO 12 and analysed on a group by group basis.

Results : Three major themes were identified across all groups namely, ‘opportunities ADT offer’, ‘barriers in adopting ADT’ and ‘promoting wellbeing with ADT’. Participants, irrespective of age, related strongly to feelings of low mood and depression after losing sight because of: poor social contact; being dependent on others to do basic things; reduced levels of income and loss of identity. All focus groups highlighted that recent advances in ADT had improved their wellbeing by reducing social isolation and improving confidence. Participants emphasised the value of voice-assisted technologies on smartphones (e.g. relating to finance, health and social care services) and object recognition algorithms that make face, text and object recognition more straightforward. Participants also identified a number of challenges associated with ADT including the cost, learning new skills, physical difficulties interacting with ADT and keeping up with rapid changes in technology.

Conclusions : The results of this focus group study showed that ADTs improve the wellbeing of people with sight loss primarily by prompting independence and increasing social contact. The most significant negative issue with ADT was cost. Future ADTs designed for people with sight loss should consider factors surrounding user expectations (e.g. aesthetics), physical limitations, affordability, ease of use (e.g. intuitive design), accessibility and, social acceptability.

This abstract was presented at the 2019 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Vancouver, Canada, April 28 - May 2, 2019.


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