Screen use, harmful as it may be, is vital in today’s digitized society. It may be little surprise that 75.6% of American adults do research on their computers; however, many use screens for everyday tasks too such as setting an alarm clock (56.6% use a smartphone), checking the weather (53.7% use a smartphone) or finding a recipe for dinner (48.7% use a computer).1 So for people living with hemianopia—a cortical blindness commonly resulting from stroke, which can partially eliminate vision—the impact on quality-of-life can be severe.

In addition, the United States doesn’t count the condition as a visual impairment, and people with it do not usually obtain government assistance, despite the fact that they are restricted from driving because of it.2 For these patients, one may think, digital devices and apps can assist in errands such as grocery delivery and healthcare management. However, according to new research published in the May issue of Optometry and Vision Science, people with hemianopia report difficulty with the full range of screen-centered life, from TV to smartphones and even taking photographs. “These difficulties seem to lead to reduced attendance at movie theaters and reduced taking of photographs. These changes in behavior and difficulties with activities of daily living are related to a reduced quality of life experienced by people with hemianopia that may not be well captured by various instruments,” the research said.

The Massachusetts-based researchers looked at 283 people, 91 of whom had some form of hemianopia. Of those 91, 61% developed it after a stroke, 11% from a traumatic brain injury, 13% were associated with a tumor and 11% occurred as a consequence of brain surgery. Most hemianopia patients (56%) reported at least “some” difficulty watching television, which was much higher than among participants with normal vision. Half of the participants with hemianopia expressed strong interest in assistive technology.

The researchers assert that the information this study provides may be used as a guide for rehabilitation and to develop methods patients may use to help watch videos and use these digital devices.

1. The Vision Council. Accessed May 9, 2018.
2. Costela F, Sheldon Sarah, Walker B, et al. People with hemianopia report difficulty with TV, computer, cinema use, and photography. Optom Vis Sci. 2018;95(5):428-34.