If you are experiencing vision loss, there are many things you can do continue living your life with independence and optimism. There are many strategies for independent living and both techniques and technological aids that can help you optimize your vision. This section introduces some of these practical strategies and also provides links to a rich array of resources for those dealing with vision loss.
If you have a vision disease and are experiencing vision loss, you may be feeling uncertain about how you will deal with the challenges of vision loss. And you may well not receive from your eye doctor the kind of information and support that you need to help yourself find solutions to your new problems. Information helps, as does knowing where to go for help and support.
Modifying your environment
Environmental modifications can significantly improve your ability to perform tasks in the home and the work place. These modifications might be all that is needed, or you might find that you benefit from combining vision-enhancing devices with environmental improvements.
Two of the primary modifications are illumination and magnification.
Shine a light on it! Lighting can make a big difference
As we age we need more light to see. For those with vision loss from retinal diseases like AMD, lighting can make all the difference. This is especially true because many people with vision loss have lost contrast sensitivity, which is also greatly improved with increased illumination.
Lighting improvements can include adding more lights and increasing the illumination from existing lights. Adequate indirect lighting, usually from sunlight or ceiling fixtures, makes moving around living spaces safer and easier. For reading and other near-vision activities, direct lighting aimed at the task provides the needed contrast, for example distinguishing printed letters from the page behind.
Don’t neglect glare
Glare, light that reflects into your eyes, is bright light that makes vision difficult and can create unsafe situations, such as the light from oncoming headlights. In your home or workplace you can identify sources of glare such as light bulbs without shades or uncovered windows that let in sunlight.
Outside your controlled environment you can encounter glare in the form of sunlight or the headlights of cars that can seriously affect your ability to see. A brimmed hat and/or tinted and polarized glasses can help cut glare, indoors as well as outside.
Bigger is better
The bigger the thing you are looking at the better you will see it. Magnifiers are a prime aid in making things bigger. You can also get closer to what you are looking at–the movie screen, the TV… Things that tend to be made small and hard to see, like crossword puzzles, checkbooks, keyboards, cook books can be purchased in larger versions.
Contrast makes it possible to differentiate an image from its background. It is very important to good vision. Changes in contrast sensitivity can have significant impact on how one is able to function, for example not being able to distinguish the curb from the sidewalk, or missing a step on a staircase. Many people are uncomfortable or afraid to drive at night because of contrast loss, too.
Coping with loss of contrast sensitivity does not require special devices but instead making changes to your environment. Some examples include changing to contrasting colors for objects of importance that are difficult to distinguish such as the edges of steps and faceplates on electrical switches and outlets, using a dark-colored measuring cup for measuring light-colored foods and a white measuring cup for dark foods, using colored or patterned drinking glasses rather than transparent ones, or taping handles of tools and utensils with a bright, contrasting color. And one of the best assistive devices is dark wide felt-tip marking pen!
Enhanced lighting helps when you are finding that objects seem to meld into the background, including reading.
Outdoors you may find that specially tinted glasses can enhance contrast.
Adapting your home and life to vision loss
There are many excellent resources – online and published – from which you can learn essential skills for living with vision loss: cooking and eating, dressing, shopping, organizing your living space and work space, traveling and dealing with transportation, finding things, and much more. Our resources page is a place to start: Resources
Reading: lighting, glare, magnification
Losing the ability to read easily can be life-changing. To assist in reading you can modify the environment to assure that there is a direct, bright source of light aimed at what you are reading and that you are using adequately bright bulbs. The type of lighting is also important. Natural sunlight is the ideal lighting for reading, so in the daytime you can arrange furniture to allow for reading with natural light. The closer to ambient daylight the bulbs in your lamps, the more comfortable is the reading experience. Full-spectrum bulbs mimic natural light. Fluorescent bulbs create glare, which can be tiring to the eyes.
Holding something closer to your eyes might make it clearer, as this enlarges the retinal image to bring more details above the resolution threshold. But it’s not practical as long-term solution. Portable magnifiers also play an important role in enhancing the experience of reading. (See below)
Vision enhancing devices
Low vision devices can help maximize your remaining vision by enhancing contrast, controlling glare and magnifying objects. Because each is designed for a specific purpose, you may end up using more than one device.
Two of the most common types are:
- Magnifiers for those with central vision loss
- Field-expansion devices for those with peripheral vision loss.
As we grow older, a certain amount of vision loss is inevitable, as the light-sensitive cells in your retina, where vision processing occurs slowly degenerate. When you start experiencing vision loss in the macula, the central part of your retina, a magnifier can compensate somewhat for a damaged macula by helping you use more of the healthy retina surrounding the damaged area to create visual images.
Magnifiers can help in seeing tasks such as from close tasks such as reading fine print, sewing to cooking and using a computer to distance viewing such as a theater or even driving.
There are several categories of ow vision magnifiers:
- Low vision reading glasses
- Magnifiers mounted on eyeglasses
- Handheld or stand magnifiers
- Video camera magnifiers
Before you can select a device you should identify the tasks that you are looking for assistance with. Are you doing fine-detail work or are you working with a computer monitor? Start your search for the right device by assessing what specific types of low vision magnifiers are available and what each device can — and cannot — do for certain types of vision loss.
A magnifier that might help someone with peripheral vision loss, for example, might not help someone with central vision loss.And the magnification range of a magnifier should be determined by your acuity.
As well, if you are using multiple devices, the specialist can select the most effective combination of magnifiers and eyeglasses.Getting help
Those with a constricted visual field, common with glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa, can benefit from visual field awareness prisms and reverse telescopes. But these require a low vision specialist for selecting the proper device and learning to use it. LINK >>>
The evolution of smartphones, tablets, e-readers and the applications being developed for them is proving to be a boon to those with low vision.