Using abbreviations to increase reading speed in low vision
63.322, Wednesday, May 15, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm, Royal Ballroom 6-8
Steve Mansfield1, Katie Tifft1, Pei Ning Lee1, Stephanie Crocco1, Jordan Wendling1; 1Psychology, SUNY College at Plattsburgh
Introduction: Low vision often slows reading because visual impairments limit how many letters can be recognized in each glance. We have investigated whether this limitation could be alleviated using abbreviations. Abbreviations reduce the redundancy in printed English, so that the information is conveyed by fewer letters. We anticipate an improvement in reading speed commensurate with the reduction in text length. Methods: We measured the reading-speed benefit of abbreviations for 64 students reading with simulated acuity loss (wearing blurring goggles that, on average, increased acuity print size from 0.04 logMAR to 0.65 logMAR), and for four students reading with simulated visual-field loss (the display was restricted so that only ½, 1, 2, 4, or 8 characters were visible at a time Â— the reader used the computer mouse to navigate through the text). Reading speed was measured for sentences that included many numbers that were either written as words (e.g., "twenty-three") or which were abbreviated by using their digit form (e.g., "23"). Using digits in this way was convenient for this study: they are familiar, easy to read, and they substantially reduced the length of the sentences. Results: The blurring goggles slowed reading speeds for the full-length texts by 40%, but with the abbreviations this deficit was reduced to 25% (p<0.05). Similarly, reading with the ½-character window slowed reading speeds for the full-length texts by 60%, but with the abbreviations this deficit was completely eradicated (p<0.001). Conclusion: These findings suggest that abbreviations could produce substantial reading speed gains for people with low vision. The search is now on for an abbreviation scheme that can realize these benefits in everyday reading materials.