How can I manage my low vision?


It’s not easy to think about being visually impaired—but it is a reality for millions of Americans. Not only do people with visual impairments use canes, walking sticks and guide dogs, but they also depend on “cues” from their other senses to determine where they are at any time.

To move freely at your home even with a visual impairment, consider replacing worn carpeting and removing all area rugs that could cause you to trip. Have someone clear the walkways of electrical cords. Make sure that children or pets don’t drop objects or toys that could allow you to fall.

Keep furniture in the main section of the room and out of the walkways. Remember to push chairs into the desks so you don’t trip by mistake. If you are partially sighted, rely on contrasting colors to make it easier to see stairs and doors.

Replace light bulbs throughout the house with higher wattage bulbs to boost lighting. This is especially important in the hallway and stairwell. Make sure your stair railing is sturdy as you need to depend on this when going up and down the stairs.

Always wear supportive shoes that fit your feet. If you are leaving the home for a walk, be well aware of specific landmarks so you don’t lose your positioning at home. Plan your route well before you launch out on your own, and if possible, go with a friend or family member as you get used to navigating outside with partial vision.

Dr. Laura C. Fine, MD
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

The magnifying lens remains one of the most common tools to help compensate for low vision. Most magnifying lenses are made to be held, but some can be incorporated into the lens of a pair of prescription glasses and used for reading or detail work. Special lenses that work like miniature telescopes can be mounted on a pair of glasses and used for driving or watching a movie. Glasses with special filters or stand-mounted magnifiers containing a light source may help with excessive glare or reduced contrast (less distinction between light and dark). An expensive option is a device similar to something once featured in Star Trek: goggles that consist of two tiny high-definition television sets that display images recorded and enhanced by a digital camcorder.

Many software programs can make the text on a computer monitor larger or more legible to people with vision problems. Options range from programs that enable you to change font size and background displays to specialized text-to-speech conversion programs that read online text aloud. Special keyboards, magnifiers for monitors, and other devices are also available. Most major computer supply stores carry these products.

Electronic "talking" watches, alarm clocks, and calculators let people rely on their hearing rather than their vision. Listening to audiobooks is another popular option.

A simple desk lamp with a metal shade is one of the easiest ways to improve vision if you use it properly. Position the lamp so that the light shines directly onto the materials in front of you, rather than over your shoulder or high above you.

Other inexpensive, low-tech vision aids include large-print versions of playing cards, bingo cards, and push-button telephone pads. And, of course, many books and newspapers come in large-print versions.

Continue Learning about Visual Impairments

Visual Impairments

Optical issues with the eye are quite common, possibly because we started as cavemen who did not have to read tiny letters on a computer screen as you may be doing right now. Conditions that may be corrected with optics include as...

tigmatism, near and far sightedness and some forms of visual field distortion. Some eyes have trouble seeing color the way other's do. This is called color blindness, and is more common in men. As we age there are common diseases and concerns including cataracts and glaucoma. Having diabetes can make you more likely to develop retinopathy, when blood vessels in the retina break and leak into the eye. Some conditions may lead to partial or total blindness. Legal blindness is a legal term more than a medical one, but meeting the standard for legal blindness can qualify you for special help.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.