A world-first RSS news reader has been created for people suffering from the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK, thanks to an academic at Royal Holloway, University of London and has been given the nod by Britain’s best loved actress, Dame Judi Dench, who has Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
EV News Reader screen
Currently 600,000 people in the UK have AMD and 200 people are diagnosed everyday with the condition. Not being able to read easily was the number one problem for sufferers.
The brand new Ev News web app, created by Robin Walker, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Royal Holloway and Codica Ltd, a London-based digital product studio, could help the hundreds-of-thousands of people with macular disease to read the news and keep updated with current affairs.
It offers a growing selection of select national and international news sources in a simple, accessible user interface based on the MDevReader, a free eBook reader for people with macular degeneration also developed by Robin and the Macular Society UK.
It was designed to support the use of reading with the ‘eccentric viewing’ technique, whereby the individual holds their gaze slightly away from the text that scrolls from right-to-left like a news ticker. It offers the ability adjust the focus point position, modify text size, font and colour as well as fine-tune reading speed to the reader’s pace.
Macular disease affects central vision, producing problems in seeing in detail, causing sufferers to find it difficult to do day-to-day activities. The most common type of macular disease is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD affects people over 60, but it can happen earlier and there are younger people who are diagnosed with macular disease.
Prof Robin Walker, Royal Holloway, said: “This app was informed by our work into how people read scrolling text and is a good example of how academic research can have a real-world impact.
“We are currently evaluating the effectiveness in an evaluation study funded by the Macular Society.”
Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “People with macular disease often find it difficult to do the things that so many of us take for granted.
“This debilitating condition can rob people of their confidence and independence. We know from speaking to people affected that reading is one of the things people miss the most when they lose their sight.
“Technology can of course make a huge difference to the lives of people living with macular disease and we look forward to seeing how the new Ev News app can enable people to read again.”
Dame Judi Dench, who is also an Honorary Fellow at Royal Holloway, added: “I suffer from AMD and find it difficult to learn scripts or to read articles.
“The device developed by Robin at Royal Holloway University is enormously beneficial, as it allows you to read as fast or as slow as you want and has a focal point for you to concentrate on.
“It really is a huge help and I hope a lot of other people with MD use these platforms and find it as beneficial as I do.”
Ken Carmichael, who has AMD, said: “Before I was diagnosed with AMD, I went to the opticians thinking I needed a stronger prescription for my lenses, but was told, quite bluntly, that I was going blind.
“AMD affects my daily life, most especially with reading. Royal Holloway’s EV News reader has changed that and I have regained the ability to keep up with the news.
“It’s absolutely brilliant.”
Konstantinos Papagiannopoulos, founder and director at Codicil Ltd. said: “This is a great example of how technology can positively impact people’s lives by bringing together academic research and entrepreneurial execution.”
The first evaluation version of the web app is available (and free to use) as of today, aiming to gauge interest in the macular community and gather feedback from users that will inform its further development. It is currently compatible with the latest versions of Chrome, Safari and Firefox on desktop, tablet and mobile.
Anyone with MD can use the Ev News reader by clicking here.
For case studies of those with macular disease, please visit the Macular Society.