A CCTV provides hands-free magnification of reading material using a camera system. You look at a computer screen while the CCTV system does the magnification for you. Closed circuit television (CCTV) was originally used for security, and is still used for that purpose today. This technology was co-opted to develop a system in which the camera now focuses on whatever it is that the low vision patient needs to see better. It is typically used for reading, although it can be used for almost anything.

You can magnify up to 20x and sometimes even higher with the digital zoom, not that you will always need it, but you do have that option. In addition to the magnification, many CCTV systems for low vision have a host of other features to improve contrast and color.

What are some examples of tasks that a low vision patient will use a CCTV for?

The most common usage of a CCTV system for low vision is for reading texts such as a book or a newspaper. However there are many other uses for a CCTV system. Another common reason to use a CCTV is for artists and craftspeople. If someone's career or hobby was to paint, draw, crochet, knit, make jewelry, or create anything that requires detailed vision, the CCTV can enable them to continue to do what they are passionate about despite their loss of vision. Let's say you want to look at your nails closely to do your nails, your camera could be focused on your hands. When you place your hands under the camera, you are no longer looking at your hands, but at the camera screen because it has magnified it. Some people use CCTVs to write letters as well as play games or do crossword puzzles because the magnification really helps them. The difficult part is getting used to not looking at what you're doing but at the screen that's magnifying it for you.

Why is a CCTV a good option for students with vision loss?

A CCTV is very useful to students because they study a lot of books. Books can be displayed on a screen for them. Other CCTV systems also have movable cameras, which can be set to focus on a book or notes and then can be moved to focus in the distance and  the students will get distant magnification.

The CCTV allows students to look at a board the teacher is writing on and see what they are writing. CCTV systems are very versatile and they could bring the device to school.

Originally, CCTVs were enormous, with huge screens and big cameras. There are a lot of them now that are streamlined like a tablet. You just have to be able to move the camera. Many of these cameras are tiny, making them portable and easy to carry into the classroom.

What CCTV for low vision should I get?

This question is extremely important as often a patient or their loved one may go out and buy a CCTV before visiting a low vision optometrist. There are so many different CCTV systems out there, each one with its own features and pros and con’s. Before purchasing a CCTV you should schedule a low vision exam with a low vision optometrist. During that exam the low vision optometrist will help guide you on the kind of CCTV (and other devices) that will best meet your visual needs, your goals, and your budgets.

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