What is low vision?
Low vision is the term used for a visual impairment. Low vision is a loss of eyesight that makes everyday tasks difficult. A person with low vision may find it difficult to accomplish activities such as reading, writing, shopping, watching television, and driving a car. Regular medical eye exams by an ophthalmologist (Eye doctor) are important to diagnose visual impairments, treat those conditions that can be helped, and begin the process of vision rehabilitation for individuals with low vision. The doctor will complete an eye exam asking questions about your medical history and any vision problems you might be experiencing. The exam will also include a number of tests designed to evaluate your vision. Your doctor may use a variety of instruments.
The most common types of low vision include loss of central vision, loss of peripheral(side) vision, night blindness, blurred vision and hazy vision.
Common Vision Disorders:
Cataracts: Over 20 million people in the US alone have cataracts according to Prevent Blindness America. It appears as a clouding of the lens of the eye.
Glaucoma: Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. With glaucoma, portions of vision are lost over time, usually with no warning signs or symptoms prior to vision deterioration. For many, a decrease in peripheral vision is the first sign of glaucoma.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): AMD is a leading cause of vision loss among Americans over age 60. It accounts for nearly half of all low vision cases. There are two types of AMD, wet and dry. Wet AMD is known as advanced AMD and does not have stages like dry AMD. Dry AMD stages are early, intermediate and advanced.
Diabetic Retinopathy: According to the National Eye Institute, more than 30 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy. It is a major cause of blindness and is caused by damage to blood vessels in the back of the eye, which is due to high blood sugar.
There are a variety of devices and tips to assist with managing low vision. Please review below:
Improve lighting: Use a gooseneck lamp directed onto your task. Carry a penlight.
Reduce glare: Indoors, cover wood tables and shiny counters; wear yellow clip-on or fit over glasses. Outdoors, try dark yellow or amber glasses. Visors can be useful indoors or out.
Increase contrast: Use a black ink gel or felt pen, not a ballpoint. Draw a dark line where you need to sign.
Increase the size:
Move closer: Try to get front row to watch performance and sit closer to the television.
Enlarge: Many products are available with larger buttons, larger fonts and print-this includes games/puzzles, computer keyboards, calculators, tv remote controls, phones, books. Use electronic books, e-book readers and audio books. Talking watches, clocks, calculators, glucometers, and computers are also helpful.
Magnify: Low vision magnifiers come in many powers and types to meet the need of your visual needs. Hand-held magnifiers can be used to assist with reading menus, mail, magazines. There are also video magnifiers that are available.
Label Important Items: Use a high contrast marker, (can be purchased at a fabric store)and label medications, knobs, dials making easier to read.
Since 1905, Lighthouse International has led the charge in the fight against vision loss through prevention, treatment and empowerment. Lighthouse International offers help, hope and resources– providing people across the spectrum of vision impairment with the skills and strategies they need to remain safe, independent and active at every stage of life.
Choice Magazine Listening is a nonprofit organization that provides audio recordings of memorable articles, stories, interviews, essays and poems from outstanding current magazines, completely free of charge, to blind, visually impaired, physically disabled or dyslexic adults.
The American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB) is a nonprofit national consumer organization of, by, and for deaf-blind Americans and their supporters. They provide a database of state and local organizations and agencies serving that help deaf-blind persons achieve their maximum potential through increased independence, productivity, and integration into the community.
Resources for E-books and E-book readers:
U.S. National Library Service: Talking Books Service 800-424-8567