Eye centre patients can borrow assistive devices for free
This helps the visually impaired to test and learn how to use them before deciding whether to buy
Visually impaired patients at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) can now borrow assistive devices, such as Braille tablets and text-to-speech magnifiers, for free.
This allows patients to test the devices before deciding if they want to purchase them.
It also helps equip the patients with skills to use the devices as technology use becomes commonplace in the healthcare sector.
SNEC's low vision clinic sees about 800 of such patients a year.
The centre's medical director, Professor Wong Tien Yin, said doctors in the future are likely to use more digital solutions, such as wearables and home monitoring devices, to care for patients.
Speaking at the virtual launch of the loan library yesterday, Prof Wong said: "Do our patients, particularly the elderly, have the skills to... access these digital solutions?
"This possible digital divide between the younger and older people with visual impairment is something we hope to bridge."
About 1.5 per cent of Singaporeans have low vision, a form of visual impairment that cannot be improved with glasses, medication or surgery.
The vision loss includes difficulty seeing in the dark, not being able to see clearly or being sensitive to glare to the point that it affects daily life.
Low vision is more common in the elderly, owing to age- related eye conditions.
Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity Josephine Teo, who was the guest of honour at the event, said these assistive technologies can allow those with special needs to lead more independent lives.
The loan library, known as the Smart Technology Active Ageing Resource Corner, has about 16 items for loan, for a start.
Most of the items were loaned to SNEC from SPD, a local charity for people with disabilities.
Other items that can be borrowed from the library include a wearable device that can read text, recognise faces and identify products, and scientific calculators that can read out mathematical expressions and texts.
Since the soft launch of the library in March, about 16 patients have borrowed devices. They can use an item for three weeks and no charge will be imposed if the device is returned in good condition and on time.
Many visually impaired people are not aware of the devices available, said Ms Joyce Wong, director of centralised services at SPD.
She said the loan library aims to reduce the barriers to adoption of these devices.
"We hope more can benefit from the resources that would help them live more independently."