Low Vision And The Tools That Can Help

Low vision is defined by the Cleveland Clinic as “Vision loss that can’t be corrected with glasses, contacts, or surgery.” Low vision includes a variety of visual impairments such as blurry vision, blind spots and decreased acuity.

A person with low vision is not necessarily legally blind. Legal blindness has a specific criterion based on the amount of remaining vision. Regardless of the visual impairment, many existing tools act as an assistance to visually impaired individuals.

One category of low vision aids is non-optical. This category includes Flexible-Arm Task Lamps, reading stands and bump dots. They are often recommended as part of a low vision examination, and can be used in combination with magnifiers and other low vision optical devices that can help with reading and a variety of tasks.

For low vision, the importance of lighting cannot be overstated. Inadequate lighting cannot make up for small print or weak magnification. There are all kinds of lights for just about any task or situation. Reading stands can hold books/magazines in place. And bump or locator dots can be used to organize and find items. A LabelMaker can also be used to label and organize household items. There are low vision aids for just about any purpose or function you can imagine 

There are a myriad of other non-optical low vision aids. Colored paper and paper with bold lines can make writing easier. A small plastic signature card makes signing documents easier. A thick Sharpie or other marker can be used instead of pens/pencils. A large print calendar or appointment book is another useful tool. Many of these aids are simple and straightforward. And making use of what is available can lessen frustration. 

Other basic to more advanced electronic/computer-based devices can also act as assistance for visually impaired individuals. The Hadley Institute provides a good overview of the various low vision aids. Simple low vision aids include handheld magnifiers and lights. Electronic handheld magnifiers can provide increased levels of magnification and contrast. Computers are also made accessible with the use of screen magnifiers and readers. Smartphones like the iPhone and Android are another great option. These devices have apps that can magnify text, read text aloud, and identify objects. Smartphones are a versatile solution as they are portable so that they can be used at home and when on the go. 

Using a mix of these tools can aid in daily activities. For instance, a pocket magnifier can be used for reading a price tag or short bits of text. At home, handheld magnifiers are a great and inexpensive option. You can have them scattered about your home so that they are readily available to you. Desktop magnifiers with lights can be left on the kitchen table for reading books or recipes. While a smaller unit can be left by the medicine cabinet for identifying prescriptions. Magnifiers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You will certainly be able to find something to use for just about every scenario you may encounter.

One of the most powerful and useful low vision aids is a CCTV. A video magnifier, or closed-circuit television (CCTV) system, uses a stand-mounted or handheld video camera to project a magnified image onto a video monitor, a television (TV) screen, or a computer monitor. Cameras with zoom lenses provide variable magnification. In most of these systems, magnification level and focus are set after choosing a comfortable and functional working distance between the camera and the material to be viewed.

CCTVs also allow you to adjust contrast to make things easier to see. Some CCTVs also come with screen reading capabilities which involves taking a picture of a document and having it read back to you. This is an assistance to visually impaired individuals when reading large documents for extended periods.

There is no one single solution to cover every situation. It is a good idea to consider your specific needs. It is likely that a combination of one or two low vision aids will work best. 


If you are interested in learning even more, your next step is to check out the programs offered at Outlook Enrichment. We can help you explore the possibilities and guide you through the process. Contact us to get started.

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