While there are a lot of devices designed specifically for low vision, there are plenty of regular gadgets that can be helpful for people with macular degeneration.
Below are a few ideas, if you’d like to take a look:
A bright craft light – so they can get extra brightness when they need it. LED versions, like this one, are great because they don’t get too hot, even after they’ve been on for a while.
A pair of glasses that cut out blue waves from screens– to fight eye fatigue when they’re using the computer, phone, or other devices. (See this post for more.)
A subscription to the New York Times crosswords — so they can solve puzzles on a back-lit screen.
A nice pair of headphones– to make them comfortable as they listen to music, podcasts, or audio books. Consider whether they’d prefer “on-ear” headphones, which compress against the ear, and “over-ear” ones that cup around the ears. These are widely lauded as the best on the market, but there are plenty of less expensive options.
An Audible membership– so they can download audiobooks. (Or, ask if you can help them get connected to their public library, where they may be able to rent audiobooks for free.) If the person you’re shopping for does not have a smartphone where they can download apps, consider giving them one of your old phones—if it’s an iPhone, you can probably set it to “airplane” mode and enable wifi so they can use it without a phone plan. An internet connection is also needed.
A Google Home – so they can ask about the time and weather, set a timer, listen to podcasts and music, or get information just by using their voice. Note: Google Home needs access to stable wifi. Also, it needs to be connected to a phone through the Google Home app. If you’re setting up the Google Home for someone without a smartphone, you could add the app on your own phone to set up the device.
An iMac or Macbook– so they can take advantage of the bright screen and Accessibility tools, which include easy settings for mouse pointers, display size, and text-to-speech options. Though they cost a small fortune, Apple products have built-in Accessibility settings that can make it much easier for someone with low vision to use them. Plus, the retina display on Macs is heavily pixelated and the brightness is more intense than mos other screens I’ve used. As my vision has gotten worse, I’ve switched from PCs to Macs because of their screen intensity and Accessibility options. Here’s but one review of the iMac with retina display.
A trackpad for their desktop– so they can zoom in an out as they browse the web, write emails, or do any other tasks. I use both a mouse and a trackpad with my iMac and the combination has made it much, much easier for me to use most programs.
An iPhone or iPad — so they can have extra help everywhere they go. The same Apple Accessibility features mentioned above apply to these devices. From Siri to VoiceOver to Diction, an iPhone or iPad would probably be the ideal gift for someone with low vision. An iPhone or iPad with a data plan would also be a great gift for someone who is without an internet connection, because they could use their data to access apps like Audible. Here’s a good guide from iMore, see especially their how-to list for Siri.
I recognize that many of these ideas are far from inexpensive, so to close, here’s one idea that has nothing to do with tech:
An outing to get a meal or to run errands — so they can enjoy a few hours with you.