Skip to main content

I see therefore i read: improving the reading capabilities of individuals with visual disabilities through immersive virtual reality


We aim to help improve the quality of life of people with visual disabilities through the application of emerging technologies. Our current research investigates the viability of virtual reality (VR) as an aid for persons with visual disabilities. In this article, we explore the potential of VR-assisted reading. We investigate the reading effects of VR equipment on persons with visual disabilities by utilising variations of standardised optometry-informed reading tests conducted across 24 participants. Test results uncovered that, when comparing a worn VR head-mounted display (HMD) to physical unaided tests, results within a HMD scaled better at closer distances, while unaided tests scaled better with further distances. Using the findings collected and requirements elicited from participants, a prototype document reader was developed for reading text within a VR-immersed 3D environment, allowing low-vision users to customise and configure accessibility features for enhanced reading. This software was tested with 11 new participants alongside user evaluations, allowing us to discover how users perceived text best within our 3D virtual environments, and what features and techniques are required to evolve this accessibility tool further. The user test reported an overwhelmingly positive response to our tool as a feasible reading aid, allowing persons who could not engage (or, due to the difficulty, refusing to) in the reading of material to do so. We also register some limitations and areas for improvement, such as a need for non-functional requirements to be improved, and the aesthetics of our design to be improved going forward.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13
Fig. 14

Data Availability

Any data can be obtained through the University of Wolverhampton, Beacon Centre for the Blind, or through emailing the corresponding author.

Code availability

Source code of our prototype software is not available, but use of our test scenes can be requested. This work presents all testing variables and conditions to allow for reproduction.


  1. 1.

    Due to confidentiality agreements we are not permitted to name or identify the companies by name or features. We can however disclose that the companies mentioned employ over 100,000 employees each and are related to the creation of hardware and software solutions.

  2. 2.

    The participants in this test were not the same individuals used in the previous study


  1. 1.

    AbilityNet: Vision impairment and computing. (2021). [Online; accessed 24-Aug-2021]

  2. 2.

    Adelson, J.D., Bourne, R.R., Briant, P.S., Flaxman, S.R., Taylor, H.R., Jonas, J.B., Abdoli, A.A., Abrha, W.A., Abualhasan, A., Abu-Gharbieh, E.G., et al.: Causes of blindness and vision impairment in 2020 and trends over 30 years, and prevalence of avoidable blindness in relation to vision 2020: the right to sight: an analysis for the global burden of disease study. The Lancet Global Health (2020)

  3. 3.

    Ames, S.L., Wolffsohn, J.S., Mcbrien, N.A.: The development of a symptom questionnaire for assessing virtual reality viewing using a head-mounted display. Optom. Vis. Sci. 82(3), 168–176 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Arrue, M., Valencia, X., Pérez, J.E., Moreno, L., Abascal, J.: Inclusive web empirical studies in remote and in-situ settings: a user evaluation of the remotest platform. Int. J. Hum. Comput. Interact. 35(7), 568–583 (2019)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Bailey, I.L., Lovie, J.: The design and use of a new near-vision chart. Am. J. Optom. Physiol. Opt. 57(6), 378–387 (1980)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Blindness, C.: Ishihara color test. (2019). [Online; accessed 14-January-2020]

  7. 7.

    Bonnard, Q., Lemaignan, S., Zufferey, G., Mazzei, A., Cuendet, S., Li, N., Özgür, A., Dillenbourg, P.: Chilitags 2: Robust fiducial markers for augmented reality and robotics. (2013). [Online; accessed 01-Mar-2021]

  8. 8.

    Burnard, P.: A method of analysing interview transcripts in qualitative research. Nurse educ. Today 11(6), 461–466 (1991)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Clark, J.: The ishihara test for color blindness. Am. J. Physiol. Opt. (1924)

  10. 10.

    Cobb, S.V., Nichols, S., Ramsey, A., Wilson, J.R.: Virtual reality-induced symptoms and effects (vrise). Presence Teleoper. Virtual Environ. 8(2), 169–186 (1999)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Deahl, D.: Samsung launches gear vr app relúmĭno that aids the visually impaired. the verge. (2018). [Online; accessed 16-January-2020]

  12. 12.

    Elisabetta, A., Miller, A., Connor, S., et al.: Virtual image of a hand displaced in space influences action performance of the real hand. Scientific Reports (Nature Publisher Group) 10(1) (2020)

  13. 13.

    eSight: esight faq - electronic glasses for the legally blind. (2018). [Online; accessed 16-January-2020]

  14. 14.

    Foundation, B.: Age-related macular degeneration: Facts & figures. (2019). [Online; accessed 12-January-2020]

  15. 15.

    GiveVision: Give-vision. (2018). [Online; accessed 16-January-2020]

  16. 16.

    Google: Discover glass enterprise edition. (2020). [Online; accessed 19-January-2020]

  17. 17.

    Goradia, I., Doshi, J., Kurup, L.: A review paper on oculus rift & project morpheus. Int. J. Curr. Eng. Technol. 4(5), 3196–3200 (2014)

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Gowases, T., Bednarik, R., Tukiainen, M.: Text highlighting improves user experience for reading with magnified displays. In: CHI’11 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1891–1896 (2011)

  19. 19.

    Guo, A., Chen, X., Qi, H., White, S., Ghosh, S., Asakawa, C., Bigham, J.P.: Vizlens: A robust and interactive screen reader for interfaces in the real world. In: Proceedings of the 29th Annual Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, pp. 651–664. ACM (2016)

  20. 20.

    Hwang, A.D., Peli, E.: An augmented-reality edge enhancement application for google glass. Optom. Vision Sci. Off. Publ. Am. Acad. Optom. 91(8), 1021 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    IAPB: Gbd super region map & estimates of vision loss. (2020). [Online; accessed 24-Jan-2021]

  22. 22.

    IllinoisLibrary: Blind/visual impairment: Common assistive technologies. (2021). [Online; accessed 24-Aug-2021]

  23. 23.

    Institute, T.F.: What’s the difference between ar, vr, and mr? (2018). [Online; accessed 13-January-2020]

  24. 24.

    Langley, H.: Samsung blinded me at ces, then the relúmĭno glasses helped me see. (2018). [Online; accessed 16-January-2020]

  25. 25.

    Lee, A.: A rare disease robbed me of my sight. vr brought it back. alphr. (2018). [Online; accessed 13-January-2020]

  26. 26.

    Legge, G.: Mnread acuity charts | gordon e. legge. (2018). [Online; accessed 16-January-2020]

  27. 27.

    Liu, Y.: Is vr true to scale? experiments say yes.,put%20his%20index%20finger%20together (2015). [Online; accessed 20-May-2020]

  28. 28.

    Massof, R.W., Baker, F.H., Dagnelie, G., DeRose, J.L., Alibhai, S., Deremeik, J.T., Ewart, C.: Low vision enhancement system: improvements in acuity and contrast sensitivity: 3: 00 pm (lv-313). Optom. Vision Sci. 72(12), 20 (1995)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Massof, R.W., Rickman, D.L.: Obstacles encountered in the development of the low vision enhancement system. Optom. Vision Sci.: Off. Public. Am. Acad. Optom. 69(1), 32–41 (1992)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Microsoft: Hololens 2 a new vision for computing. (2020). [Online; accessed 19-January-2020]

  31. 31.

    Microsoft: Windows mixed reality games. (2020). [Online; accessed 15-January-2020]

  32. 32.

    Moreno, L., Valencia, X., Pérez, J.E., Arrue, M.: An exploratory study of web adaptation techniques for people with low vision. Universal Access in the Information Society pp. 1–15 (2020)

  33. 33.

    Murphy, M.: Facebook has a lesson to learn from nintendo’s massive 1990s virtual reality failure. (2016). [Online; accessed 13-January-2020]

  34. 34.

    Nguyen, N.X., Weismann, M., Trauzettel-Klosinski, S.: Improvement of reading speed after providing of low vision aids in patients with age-related macular degeneration. Acta Ophthalmol. 87(8), 849–853 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    NIH: Eye disease simulation. (2012). Accessed on 13-01-2020

  36. 36.

    Oculus: Elevate your vr experience. (2020). [Online; accessed 15-Jan-2021]

  37. 37.

    Oculus: Experiences. (2020). [Online; accessed 15-January-2020]

  38. 38.

    Oculus: Virtual reality on steam. (2020). [Online; accessed 15-January-2020]

  39. 39.

    Oculus: Vision. (2020). [Online; accessed 15-Jan-2021]

  40. 40.

    Organization, W.H.: Blindness and vision impairment. (2019). [Online; accessed 15-Jan-2021]

  41. 41.

    Organization, W.H.: Icd-11 for mortality and morbidity statistics. (2019). [Online; accessed 01-Mar-2021]

  42. 42.

    Owen, C.G., Jarrar, Z., Wormald, R., Cook, D.G., Fletcher, A.E., Rudnicka, A.R.: The estimated prevalence and incidence of late stage age related macular degeneration in the uk. Br. J. Ophthalmol. 96(5), 752–756 (2012)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Pelli, D., Robson, J., et al.: The design of a new letter chart for measuring contrast sensitivity. In: Clinical Vision Sciences. Citeseer (1988)

  44. 44.

    Pelli, D.G.: Crowding: a cortical constraint on object recognition. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 18(4), 445–451 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Pimax: Pimax 5k plus. (2020). [Online; accessed 20-January-2020]

  46. 46.

    Providenti, M., Zai, R., III.: Web accessibility at kentucky’s academic libraries. Libr. Hi Tech 25(4), 478–493 (2007)

  47. 47.

    Relumino: relumino | timeline. (2018). [Online; accessed 16-January-2020]

  48. 48.

    Riemer-Reiss, M.L., Wacker, R.R.: Factors associated with assistive technology discontinuance among individuals with disabilities. Journal of Rehabilitation 66(3) (2000)

  49. 49.

    RNIB: The criteria for certification. (2019). [Online; accessed 12-May-2020]

  50. 50.

    RNIB: Assistive technology. (2021). [Online; accessed 24-Jun-2021]

  51. 51.

    Roetenberg, D., Luinge, H., Slycke, P.: Xsens mvn: Full 6dof human motion tracking using miniature inertial sensors. Xsens Motion Technologies BV, Tech. Rep 1 (2009)

  52. 52.

    Rogerson, J.: Mobile vr - what smartphones work with virtual reality?. (2018). [Online; accessed 13-January-2020]

  53. 53.

    Rolland, J.P., Holloway, R.L., Fuchs, H.: Comparison of optical and video see-through, head-mounted displays. In: Telemanipulator and Telepresence Technologies, vol. 2351, pp. 293–307. International Society for Optics and Photonics (1995)

  54. 54.

    Sauro, J., Dumas, J.S.: Comparison of three one-question, post-task usability questionnaires. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems, pp. 1599–1608. ACM (2009)

  55. 55.

    Schmalstieg, D., Hollerer, T.: Augmented reality: principles and practice. Addison-Wesley Professional (2016)

  56. 56.

    Sell, J.: Top 5 devices that can help legally blind live independently. (2020). [Online; accessed 24-Jun-2021]

  57. 57.

    Society, M.: Nearly 1.5m people in the uk are affected by macular disease. (2018). [Online; accessed 12-January-2020]

  58. 58.

    Southwell, K.L., Slater, J.: An evaluation of finding aid accessibility for screen readers. Inform. Technol. Libr. 32(3), 34–46 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. 59.

    Stearns, L., DeSouza, V., Yin, J., Findlater, L., Froehlich, J.E.: Augmented reality magnification for low vision users with the microsoft hololens and a finger-worn camera. In: Proceedings of the 19th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, pp. 361–362 (2017)

  60. 60.

    Stearns, L., Findlater, L., Froehlich, J.E.: Design of an augmented reality magnification aid for low vision users. In: Proceedings of the 20th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, pp. 28–39 (2018)

  61. 61.

    Sutherland, I.E.: A head-mounted three dimensional display. In: Proceedings of the December 9-11, 1968, fall joint computer conference, part I, pp. 757–764 (1968)

  62. 62.

    Thomas, R., Barker, L., Rubin, G., Dahlmann-Noor, A.: Assistive technology for children and young people with low vision. Cochrane database of systematic reviews (6) (2015)

  63. 63.

    Ultraleap: Leap motion controller. (2020). [Online; accessed 14-January-2020]

  64. 64.

    Valve: Valve index controllers. (2020). [Online; accessed 15-Jan-2021]

  65. 65.

    VectorVision: Standardized etdrs testing - vectorvision. (2014). [Online; accessed 12-January-2020]

  66. 66.

    VisionAid: Vision aid solutions for independence. (2021). [Online; accessed 01-Mar-2021]

  67. 67.

    Vive, H.: Controller. (2020). [Online; accessed 15-Jan-2021]

  68. 68.

    VRS: History of virtual reality - virtual reality. virtual reality. (2015). [Online; accessed 13-January-2020]

  69. 69.

    Weir, K., Loizides, F., Nahar, V., Aggoun, A.: Using virtual reality to enable individuals with severe visual disabilities to read books. In: Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2019, pp. 680–684. Springer International Publishing, Cham (2019)

  70. 70.

    Xiao, G., Xu, G., Lu, J.: ibrowse: Software for low vision to access internet. In: 2010 3rd International Conference on Biomedical Engineering and Informatics, vol. 5, pp. 2062–2066. IEEE (2010)

  71. 71.

    Zhao, Y., Cutrell, E., Holz, C., Morris, M.R., Ofek, E., Wilson, A.D.: Seeingvr: A set of tools to make virtual reality more accessible to people with low vision. In: Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1–14 (2019)

  72. 72.

    Zhao, Y., Hu, M., Hashash, S., Azenkot, S.: Understanding low vision people’s visual perception on commercial augmented reality glasses. In: Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 4170–4181 (2017)

  73. 73.

    Zhao, Y., Kupferstein, E., Castro, B.V., Feiner, S., Azenkot, S.: Designing ar visualizations to facilitate stair navigation for people with low vision. In: Proceedings of the 32nd Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, pp. 387–402 (2019)

  74. 74.

    Zhao, Y., Szpiro, S., Azenkot, S.: Foresee: A customizable head-mounted vision enhancement system for people with low vision. In: Proceedings of the 17th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers & Accessibility, pp. 239–249. ACM (2015)

  75. 75.

    Zhao, Y., Szpiro, S., Knighten, J., Azenkot, S.: Cuesee: exploring visual cues for people with low vision to facilitate a visual search task. In: Proceedings of the 2016 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, pp. 73–84 (2016)

Download references


The authors would like to thank Beacon Centre for the Blind for providing participants groups for each study. This work is funded by Beacon Centre for the Blind and the University of Wolverhampton.


This work is funded by the Beacon Centre for the Blind and the University of Wolverhampton.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kurtis Weir.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest/Competing interests

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Weir, K., Loizides, F., Nahar, V. et al. I see therefore i read: improving the reading capabilities of individuals with visual disabilities through immersive virtual reality. Univ Access Inf Soc (2021).

Download citation


  • Virtual reality
  • VR
  • Visual disabilities
  • Reading
  • Text