Simulating Visibility and Reading Performance in Low Vision

Ying Zi Xiong, Quan Lei, Aurelie J Calabrese, Gordon E. Legge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: Low vision reduces text visibility and causes difficulties in reading. A valid low-vision simulation could be used to evaluate the accessibility of digital text for readers with low vision. We examined the validity of a digital simulation for replicating the text visibility and reading performance of low-vision individuals. Methods: Low-vision visibility was modeled with contrast sensitivity functions (CSFs) with parameters to represent reduced acuity and contrast sensitivity. Digital filtering incorporating these CSFs were applied to digital versions of the Lighthouse Letter Acuity Chart and the Pelli-Robson Contrast Sensitivity Chart. Reading performance (reading acuity, critical print size, and maximum reading speed) was assessed with filtered versions of the MNREAD reading acuity Chart. Thirty-six normally sighted young adults completed chart testing under normal and simulated low-vision conditions. Fifty-eight low-vision subjects (thirty with macular pathology and twenty-eight with non-macular pathology) and fifteen normally sighted older subjects completed chart testing with their habitual viewing. We hypothesized that the performance of the normally sighted young adults under simulated low-vision conditions would match the corresponding performance of actual low-vision subjects. Results: When simulating low-vision conditions with visual acuity better than 1.50 logMAR (Snellen 20/630) and contrast sensitivity better than 0.15 log unit, the simulation adequately reduced the acuity and contrast sensitivity in normally sighted young subjects to the desired low-vision levels. When performing the MNREAD test with simulated low vision, the normally sighted young adults had faster maximum reading speed than both the Non-macular and Macular groups, by an average of 0.07 and 0.12 log word per minute, respectively. However, they adequately replicated the reading acuity as well as the critical print size, up to 2.00 logMAR of both low-vision groups. Conclusion: A low-vision simulation based on clinical measures of visual acuity and contrast sensitivity can provide good estimates of reading performance and the accessibility of digital text for a broad range of low-vision conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number671121
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 5 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (R01 EY002934 to GEL; 1K99EY030145-01A1 to Y-ZX). Y-ZX was also supported by a fellowship from Envision Research Institute during the preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Xiong, Lei, Calabrèse and Legge.


  • contrast sensitivity
  • low vision
  • reading
  • text visibility
  • visual acuity


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