A portable hand-held electronic reader for less than $200

Low vision presents many challenges in managing daily living activities, with one of the most important being spot reading. This includes reading labels, instructions, envelope addresses, checkbooks, receipts, menus, food containers, recipes, clocks, signs, written notes, currency values, and on and on. With loss of functional eyesight, such normally routine tasks require either accommodating, seeking help, or doing without.

Electronic desktop and portable reading machines serve the need well, but they are bulky and pricey. Plus, they are not convenient for spot reading at a moment’s notice. So far, no portable handheld electronic reader has been developed for use when out and around. Until such a device becomes available, however, a good work-around can be had for less than $200.

Since 2017, Microsoft has offered a free reading application for Apple devices. Designed to work in conjunction with VoiceOver, Seeing AI reads short text and even full documents quickly and easily. Many people think they need an expensive smart phone with a paid monthly cell service to use this app. That is not necessary. It works with Wi-Fi only. For as little as $150, a thrift-minded person could purchase a refurbished iPod Touch (essentially a small iPad) from Apple at https://www.apple.com/shop/refurbished/ipod, then load it with Seeing AI to create a very useful and relatively inexpensive portable handheld electronic reader. And the iPod can also be used to browse the Internet or use email for those who are so inclined.

Of course, a new basic iPod (16 GB) can be bought new for about $50 more, but refurbished devices are just as good when bought from reliable dealers like Amazon Warehouse Deals, Apple Store, Best Buy Outlet, Black Market, Crutchfield Outlet Store, Dell Outlet, Microsoft, and Walmart Certified Refurbished.

For less than the cost of a pair of cheap glasses, with a little practice at basic technology, and with access to Wi-Fi (available almost everywhere these days), reading does not have to be an insurmountable problem anymore for visually impaired people! 

More about Seeing AI

Thanks to the development of optical character recognition software, the app speaks printed or handwritten text as soon as it appears in front of the iDevice’s camera. It also provides audio guidance to capture and read full page documents. And this is just it’s reading functionality. Using the new technology of artificial intelligence (AI), Seeing AI can also read barcodes, recognize faces, describe scenes from real life or photos, identify colors, and identify currency. It is available free from iTunes.