Blind World Magazine

Many resources for low-vision patients.

January 17, 2006.
Auburn Citizen - Auburn,NY,USA.

The official definition of low vision is a visual impairment that is not correctable through surgery, pharmaceuticals, glasses or contact lenses. But the real frustration is the way it can impair an individual's ability to compete everyday tasks, follow daily routines, and experience simple pleasures the rest of us take for granted.

Due to a variety of factors like people living longer, dietary changes, and holes in the ozone layers, just to name a few, the projection of macular degeneration is expected to double by 2020. Though there is no cure, there is a big difference between no cure and no help. Today, there is a broad number of services for low vision people, as well as devices such as magnifiers their remaining vision and maintain a good quality of life by restoring visual independence. Though lost vision cannot be restored in many cases, a combination of vision training and learning how to use low vision devices can return something almost as important - independence. Common conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinitis pigmentosa are all common conditions today, but yet can be very frustrating for the people who have it.

Before using visual aid devices, realistic and achievable goals should be made. Sometimes even if it is learning how to recognize people's faces, read the face of your watch, watch TV, or reading. Each of these tasks all carry a different distance requirement, which is why device decisions are so task specific. The first question you should ask yourself when choosing a device is, “what do you most want to do?” Sometimes the result in this question may result in more than one device because each is designed for a very specific purpose.

Glasses are one of the most common optical devices. Eyeglasses can be set up with high reading prescriptions sometimes with prisms to achieve reading at close distances. Prescriptions can be modified to adjust to certain distances depending on how far the object is you're looking at. Glasses can also be worn with tints and anti-reflective coatings to control reflections and color contrast. Both of these processes can dramatically increase visual comfort.

Magnifiers come in a variety of sizes and designs. Some are hand-held, others on a stand with height adjustments so the object you are reading can be placed underneath. Light is very important for anyone who reads, which is why they are also available with built-in illumination to add light to the area being viewed. Portability and convenience is important in picking a magnifier out to achieve even simple tasks like looking at prescription bottles or looking at price tags while shopping.

Telescopes can be designed to help at a variety of distances. Consisting of several lenses for each system, they can set up for one eye or both eyes. There are hand-held, but many of the new designs of telescopes are mounted onto glasses. Among the newest advances are the head-worn systems for distance viewing that come with a portable control and battery pack.

Non-optical aids can also make a big difference in someone's everyday life. Large print or talking clocks, color coded containers, and check writing guides, as well as talking books and large print publications. Another good tip is having broad-tipped black felt markers and bold-lined writing tablets of paper near phones and desks. They make writing and reading much easier. Color contrast is important in low vision as well using bright high contrast tape on edges of stairs and ledges and replacing light-colored plate switches with bright, high-contrast ones.

There are many available resources available for people with low vision. Just to name a few are, American Printing House for the Blind (, New York Times Large Type Weekly (, and American Council for the Blind ( Your eyecare professional and the Internet are two very valuable places to find support for your individual eye needs.

Marc DiVietro is an optician at Silbert Optical in Auburn.

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