Public Release: 

Do patients with age-related macular degeneration have trouble with touch screens?

Wolters Kluwer Health

September 24, 2015 - Older adults with central vision loss caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have no problem with accuracy in performing touch screen tasks, according to a study in the October issue of Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

But their performance is slower--especially during the initial "exploration" phase of touch screen tasks, according to the new research by Quentin Lenoble, PhD, of Université Lille Nord de France and colleagues. The study provides initial insights into the best ways of adapting touch screen applications for use by the millions of people affected by AMD.

People with AMD Are Accurate, But Slower, in Using Touch Screens

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults, causing serious impairment in driving, reading, and other daily tasks. "The advent of digital displays and use of computer screens has opened up many new possibilities for reading activities and travel aids for AMD sufferers," comments Anthony Adams, OD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science.

Dr. Lenoble and colleagues designed an experiment to see how AMD affected performance on a simple touch screen task. Twenty-four older adults with AMD were asked to explore scenes presented on a touch screen, and then to drag pictured objects to the corresponding scene--for example, matching a fish to the sea.

Their performance was compared with that of older adults without AMD, as well as young adults with normal vision. All three groups were highly accurate in matching the objects to the corresponding scene, with correct response rates of about 99 percent.

However, there were significant differences in the initial "exploration phase"--when participants were visually exploring the scenes presented on the touch screen. Average exploration time was about four seconds for AMD patients, compared to three seconds for older subjects with normal vision. For younger subjects, exploration time was significantly shorter: less than one second.

The younger participants also had shorter touch screen movement times. However, the two groups of older adults had similar movement speeds, whether or not they had AMD.

"This study shows that people with AMD are able to perform a task on a touch screen," Dr. Lenoble and coauthors write. "They were slower during the exploration phase, but accuracy was not affected." Based on this finding, the researchers suggest, "AMD impaired the perceptual but not the motor performance of the patients in this task."

The authors note some limitations of their study--including the fact that it was performed using large, desktop-sized touch screen monitors. It's unclear how AMD patients would be able to see and navigate the images presented on smaller screens, such as smartphones and global positioning systems.

But the results are an informative first step toward adapting touch screen applications for patients with AMD, and possibly with other visual impairments as well. "The advent of digital displays and use of computer screens has opened up many new possibilities for reading activities and travel aids for AMD sufferers," says Dr. Adams. "This study suggests that there can be new strategies in making touch screen scenes and materials more identifiable to the many people with low vision caused by AMD."

###

Click here to read "Categorization Task over a Touch Screen in Age-Related Macular Degeneration."

Article: "Categorization Task over a Touch Screen in Age-Related Macular Degeneration" (doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000000694)

About Optometry and Vision Science

Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry, is the most authoritative source for current developments in optometry, physiological optics, and vision science. This frequently cited monthly scientific journal has served primary eye care practitioners for more than 75 years, promoting vital interdisciplinary exchange among optometrists and vision scientists worldwide.

About the American Academy of Optometry

Founded in 1922, the American Academy of Optometry is committed to promoting the art and science of vision care through lifelong learning. All members of the Academy are dedicated to the highest standards of optometric practice through clinical care, education or research.

About Wolters Kluwer

Wolters Kluwer is a global leader in professional information services. Professionals in the areas of legal, business, tax, accounting, finance, audit, risk, compliance and healthcare rely on Wolters Kluwer's market leading information-enabled tools and software solutions to manage their business efficiently, deliver results to their clients, and succeed in an ever more dynamic world.

Wolters Kluwer reported 2014 annual revenues of €3.7 billion. The group serves customers in over 170 countries, and employs over 19,000 people worldwide. The company is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands. Wolters Kluwer shares are listed on NYSE Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices. Wolters Kluwer has a sponsored Level 1 American Depositary Receipt program. The ADRs are traded on the over-the-counter market in the U.S. (WTKWY).

Wolters Kluwer Health is a leading global provider of information and point of care solutions for the healthcare industry. For more information about our products and organization, visit http://www.wolterskluwerhealth.com, follow @WKHealth or @Wolters_Kluwer on Twitter, like us on Facebook, follow us on LinkedIn, or follow WoltersKluwerComms on YouTube.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.