Living with Low Vision

Many visually impaired people experience difficulty performing their day-to-day activities (ADL) such as cooking, shopping, managing finances, watching television, reading and their personal care needs. They may have concerns about finding or keeping a job, dealing with friends and family members, getting around, and participating in recreational, religious, and social activities. Parents may have concerns about their visually impaired child’s academic and career and life options. Some may feel a sense of depression. If you or someone you care for is experiencing signs of depression, call a healthcare professional immediately for assistance. Also, seek support and referrals from your eye care professional for advice, therapies and options for coping with reduced vision.

There are numerous low vision aid options and many proven strategies for helping one adjust to low vision. These can help people both maximize their vision and as well as their independence.

Some of the most common suggestions for coping with low vision include the following:

Use contrasting colors. For instance, use a dark tablecloth with white plates so you can see table edges and food more prominently. Use dark plates for light-colored food, and white plates for dark-colored food.

Label everything. Bold labels or stickers of varying shapes will be easy to identify with some practice.

Make it bigger. Many companies offer devices with large display screens, watches with enlarged faces, and buttons that are bigger and easier to differentiate from one another. This can make telling time, changing television channels, and even weighing yourself easier.

Keep it organized. Placing items in their proper places will make it easier to find them next time! Establishing organization and discipline will take some time, but once it becomes a habit, daily activities will become easier.

Seek help. Possibly the hardest step to take is asking for assistance. There are people in many shops willing and able to assist people with low vision. Even passersby are often happy to help if the request is made. There are also numerous low vision support groups operated from senior centers, libraries, and hospitals that will welcome you.

Use the buddy system. Low vision is common among aging adults. As one of the side effects of low vision is a feeling of loneliness, finding a friend or support system in your community can be very helpful. You will be able to learn tips and tricks that have worked for other people in your same situation.

Be kind to yourself. Coping with low vision is not simple. Developing your own tricks and methods takes time and effort. Go easy on yourself and keep trying. Eventually, with time and patience, you will find the best solutions for your specific visual impairment.

Practice. Once you have your methods in place, practice them. Just as learning to ride a bike, the more you practice the easier it will become.

10 ways to support children with low vision in the classroom

  • Allow the student to select a preferred seating location- this may be in the front of the classroom, perhaps located conveniently to the whiteboard or the teacher’s position in the classroom, and away from glare sources such as windows.
  • Permit low vision students to wear sunglasses or a hat with a visor if they are helpful inside.
  • While learning to copy from the board is an important skill for the student to develop, offering handouts rather than requiring everything to be copied from the board may be helpful. Handouts should be in a print size appropriate for the vision of the student. Print that is too large may actually slow down reading speeds. Their low vision specialist can suggest what size print will be appropriate.
  • Consider that extra time may be needed for the student to complete tests and assignments if extended reading and writing are required.
  • Ensure computers are equipped with screen enlarging software.
  • Be provided with a tilted writing/reading stand when close working distances and/or magnifiers are required. This will support their ergonomics to minimize fatigue and discomfort.
  • Confirm with their low vision specialist the appropriate size text of printed materials.
  • Use a monocular or bioptic telescope to improve seeing the teacher, whiteboard or blackboard, and classmates at a distance. Telescopes, especially those mounted onto eyeglasses (bioptics), can enable individuals to very conveniently see almost normally and enable them to stay more connected to their academic and social activities in school.
  • Consider having a class session so schoolmates can learn what visual disorders are all about. Be sensitive to how the student may feel about such an opportunity.
  • Finally, the teacher should inquire to be certain the student can see what is being presented. Don’t assume that if they don’t say anything, they are able to see it. Also, don’t assume they’ll admit if they are having difficulty!

The National Organization of Albinism and Hypopigmentation has very helpful publications for educators regarding vision and other issues affecting children with albinism.