Randomized Trial of Tablet Computers for Education and Learning in Children and Young People with Low Vision

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Abstract

SIGNIFICANCE

Mobile devices such as tablet computers have become widely available as mainstream devices and are also used in some schools, but there is an absence of robust information regarding the efficacy of any optical/electronic low vision device or tablet computer in supporting education of young people with low vision.

PURPOSE

A randomized controlled trial (RCT) is needed to measure the impact of tablet computers on education, specifically on independent access to educational material, in children and young people with low vision. We conducted a pilot RCT to determine the feasibility of conducting a full-scale trial.

METHODS

This was a randomized multicenter pilot trial across two sites in the United Kingdom and one site in India. Forty children and young people aged 10 to 18 years with low vision (best-corrected visual acuity for distance between <20/60 [0.48 logMAR] and 20/400 [1.30 logMAR] in the better eye) in the United Kingdom (n = 20) and India (n = 20) were randomized to two parallel arms, with a 1:1 allocation ratio, to control (n = 20) or intervention (n = 20). Control group participants received standard low vision care. The intervention group received a tablet computer (iPad) with low vision applications and instruction in its use, including accessibility features. Four primary outcomes included (1) 6-month recruitment rate, (2) retention of participants for 3 months, (3) acceptance/usage of device, and (4) accessibility of device.

RESULTS

Nineteen participants (95%) enrolled within 6 months in the United Kingdom, and 20 participants (100%), in India. Retention at 3 months was 85% (n = 17) in the United Kingdom and 95% (n = 19) in India. More than one half of participants reported using a tablet computer at school at least once every day. The majority (90%) found it easily accessible.

CONCLUSIONS

This study demonstrated that it is feasible to recruit children and young people with low vision into an international multicenter RCT of electronic assistive technology. Regardless of geographical location, children and young people with low vision reported using tablet computers at least once a day at school and accessed them easily.

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