Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Living with Low Vision
Low Vision is caused by diseases of the eye including: Age Related Macular Degeneration, Diabetic eye diseases-including retinopathy, Cataracts, and Glaucoma. Early diagnosis and treatment are key, as medication will not cure, but may prolong sight. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends eye exams every two years after the age of 65. Regular exams by an eye care professional will determine the health of the eyes and detect any changes from the previous exam.
Most visual deficits can be corrected with the aid of glasses, contacts, medication, or surgery. In the event that the eye changes compromise daily tasks, the eye care professional will work with the health care professional to treat the eye disease and the underlying medical condition.
There are many techniques, products, and resources available to people experiencing Low Vision. As necessity is often the mother of invention, new devices are developed regularly to assist with daily tasks. If you type “low vision aids” into a web search you will find a myriad of results.
Inexpensive coping strategies
- A handy household devices is a small alarm that sits on the side of a cup or mug and sounds an alert when a liquid level has been reached to prevent overflow.
- A simple desk accessory, white out tape, can be used to create contrasting marks on a dark dial (stove or microwave, or television/remote) which assists with setting selection accuracy.
- Nail polish, or a hot glue gun can also be used in the kitchen to create bumps on knobs or surfaces to mark or distinguish settings. This creates a tactile cue, not a visual cue.
- Small strips of sand paper can be glued to a floor to warn of a step or decline/incline.
- LED lighting will create a white, concentrated light to read or work by and come in a variety of sizes from clip on reading lights to floor lamps. Some people utilize the LED head lamps for increased lighting that is “hands free.”
- Magnifying lenses of all shapes and sizes are available. However, as the magnification increases, the distortion does as well. Beware of inexpensive magnifiers found at online retailers. The Association for the Blind in Kent County has a large variety of magnifiers to try before you buy. They will also personally assist you with determining the best fit for your needs and lifestyle. This service is free to Kent County seniors. www.abvimichigan.org
- Talking devices are readily available and are rather inexpensive: Talking alarm clocks, watches, timers, medication dispensers, kitchen devices, and calendars will assist with maintaining schedules and independence.
- Free books on tape can be obtained from the Kent County Library system and from several on-line resources. The books can be downloaded onto a tablet or computer, or are contained on CDs. Many national resources will send books on tape to people with low vision free of charge. (Google “Free books on tape for the blind”)
Using technology to aid in every day tasks
- Many electronic devices have voice recognition (dictation) which enable voice to text communication.
- Electronic devices have an accessibility setting that can change the size font and the contrast to create personal settings to enhance reading.
- Many “apps” can be downloaded for free, or a nominal charge. According to the About Tech website, “The iPhone has a built-in screen reader called Voice Over and supports apps that convert what the camera sees into verbal information that can enable blind users to access more of the world around them.”
- Google “apps for the blind” to find many applications that will identify objects and colors, assist with location (GPS), maintain lists and notes, and even identify currency. http://assistivetechnology.about.com/od/ATCAT1/a/26-Useful-Apps-For-Blind-Iphone-Users.htm is a website that offers reviews 22 apps specifically for people with Low Vision.
While a new diagnosis of Low Vision requires some changes in lifestyle and daily routines, one should not experience this alone. National and local resources are available to educate, support, and provide equipment which enhance life and maintain independence. Because many have blazed a trail, the greatest resource one can have is someone who is living with Low Vision. Reaching out to others with a similar diagnosis will empower, encourage, and support both of you.
- 456 Cherry Street Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
- (616) 458-1187
- Support Groups
Michigan Bureau of Services for the Blind (BBSP) – will assist with lifestyle education and vocation rehabilitation.
Bookshare – dedicated to making the print word accessible to those with visual impairment.