Low Vision Outside the Home

One of the most frustrating aspects of low vision is a feeling of being isolated from the rest of the world because you’re not able to function outside the home as well as others.

However, there are aids available that can make life outside the home a welcome experience.

Some people with low vision find a white cane to be very helpful, not just for getting around, but also for identifying to others that they have a visual impairment that may not otherwise be obvious. There are different varieties of white canes to suit the needs of different users, including collapsible travel canes, white support canes, and long travel canes. While some people are not comfortable using a white cane, most realize that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and use the white cane as a mobility tool and identifier.

Telescopes can be used to identify street signs and addresses. Some people who are blind or visually impaired will be more open to the idea of independent travel than others. If you’re a caregiver, you should be sensitive to the wishes of the person receiving care. You may find that after a period of adjustment, the person has come to terms with vision loss and is now more willing to run errands without your help.

Magnifiers are among the most useful low-vision aids and come in pocket-size, stand-mounted, handheld, and illuminated models. Many people with low vision find that they need a few different magnifiers ? one for fine detail tasks, one for watching television, and one for reading street signs (like a telescopic device that makes distant objects appear closer). Magnification technology is constantly being updated, and new products continually appear on the market.

Changing one’s lifestyle is difficult and requires flexibility and patience, from both the caregiver and the person receiving care.

Reading Devices for Low Vision

Many types of assistive devices are available to assist people with low vision. These items include special glasses and other magnification devices, and large print reading materials, shown above. Other communication aids include computer software and various other technological devices. These items include special glasses and other magnification devices, and large print reading materials,

Hand-held and stand magnifiers enlarge close-up images, allowing the user to see small print and images at greater distances from the user’s eyes. There are many different styles and sizes of magnifiers useful for people with low vision. Microscopes help people see smaller details than magnifiers produce. Microscopes enlarge close up objects the same way telescopes enlarge far away objects. Some telescopes and bioptic telescopes, designed for distance vision, also allow the user to refocus the scope for up-close use.

A bioptic is a special pair of glasses with a telescope permanently mounted in the glasses’ lens. While looking straight ahead, a bioptic user sees a normal, unmagnified image through the glasses. Then by dipping one’s head slightly, the bioptic user instantly sees a magnified image through the telescope. This “bi-optical” system allows the user to rapidly switch between a normal view and a magnified view without ever using his or her hands

When traditional optical low vision aids don’t help accomplish a task, electronic aids might help. Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) systems help people who need greater magnification than reading glasses, magnifiers, and microscopes provide. CCTV systems also allow the user to adjust the size, brightness, and contrast of the magnified image to best match the user’s vision. The user can even read white letters on a black background to decrease glare. CCTV systems have historically been far more expensive and far less portable than other near vision aids.

Video magnifiers project printed material on a closed circuit television, or CCTV, monitor or regular television or computer screen; you can sit as close to the screen as necessary, and it can be adjusted for degree of magnification, brightness, contrast, and even color. Certain magnifiers have color or black-and-white settings, and allow you to view three-dimensional objects.

Some reading devices require a prescription from your eye care practitioner because they are custom-made for your particular needs. But consult your doctor before buying even nonprescription magnifiers, because he or she can tell you which low vision devices will work best for you, based on your activities and the lens power you require.