What is Low Vision?
Low vision is a visual impairment that can affect people of all ages and is not correctable through the typical avenues of surgery, pharmaceuticals, glasses or contact lenses. Low vision is usually permanent, but modifications can often be made to improve vision and quality of life.
Typically, an individual with low vision has partial sight such as blurred vision, blind spots or tunnel vision. Common causes of low vision include age-related macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma, diabetes, cancer of the eye, brain injury and genetic disorders.
An individual living with low vision can struggle to read, recognize faces, and tell colors apart, which can make navigating life independently challenging. Colorado’s optometrists can provide support to low vision patients to improve low vision and reduce daily challenges. A few changes can greatly improve a person’s quality of life.
Step 1: Get a Low Vision Eye Exam
A low vision exam with an optometrist takes about an hour and is more extensive than a typical comprehensive eye exam. It is best to see a low vision specialist if you are experiencing low vision (see end of article for a list of Colorado low vision specialists.)
- Use this time in your low vision exam to discuss your vision goals and challenges with your eye doctor. For example, improving facial recognition, writing, reading, color identification, and more.
- Be prepared to give a family history.
- The low vision specialist will then assess your visual system, screen for ocular and systemic disease, prescribe low vision therapies or systems, and provide education to you and your family/caretaker(s).
Step 2: Discuss How to Make Reading Easier
A conversation about how to make reading with low vision easier can produce great results. Your low vision specialist can make suggestions on how to improve reading for your specific needs and uses. For instance, a student might require a way to read notes on a whiteboard while in class and you can troubleshoot the challenges around this together.
Basic Modifications for Reading:
- Increase lighting.
- Use a low vision magnifier. These magnifiers come in many forms like low vision reading glasses, magnifiers mounted on glasses, handheld, telescopes, and video magnifiers for different situations and needs.
- Use large-print reading material.
- Use audiobooks (many are accessible through your local library).
- Use ADA features for websites, computers, phones and tablets to increase text size on screen and adjust contrast.
Step 3: Discuss How to Improve Quality of Life at Home/Work
Your optometrist and low vision specialist may have additional modifications for maintaining independence at home. Simple adjustments and organizational practices can make a huge difference. The following techniques are commonly offered, but this is also your chance to troubleshoot any current issues arising at home with low vision.
- Lighting is key. Consistent lighting at home can reduce the risk of falls and disorganization.
- Use contrasting colors to help identity steps, railings, knobs, switches, and anything else that is difficult to detect visually.
- Remove hazards like rugs, cords, bulky furniture or anything that could cause a fall or injury.
- Use large print labels to help in identifying objects.
- Create an organizational system to keep track of personal items.
- Label medications or use color code system for identifying prescription and over the counter medications.
- Troubleshoot any challenges that prevent access to a healthy diet high in nutrient dense foods like leafy greens, berries, fish, nuts, and more.
Colorado Resources and Support Services Specific to Blindness/Visual Impairment
- A Shared Vision: Partners in Pediatric Visual Impairment
- Anchor Center for Blind Children
- Audio Information Network of Colorado
- Colorado Association of the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (CAER) Chapter
- Colorado Center for the Blind Youth Programs
- Colorado Instructional Materials Center
- Colorado Talking Book Library
- Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind
- Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind: Student Employability
- Learning Ally
- University of Northern Colorado’s teacher training program in Visual Impairment, which includes coursework in “Orientation and Mobility“
- AERBVI – Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
- ACB – American Council of the Blind
- ACVREP – Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals
- AFB – American Foundation for the Blind
- APH– The American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
- BANA– Braille Authority of North America
- CEC – Division on Visual Impairment of the Council for Exceptional Children
- COSB – Council for Schools for the Blind
- LI – Lighthouse International
- NBA – National Braille Association
- NFB – National Federation of the Blind
- RRTC – Rehabilitation Research & Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision
- USABA – United States Association for Blind Athletes
- SEE THE FUTURE FUND Scholarship Application
This application is for Colorado students who are blind/visually impaired and who are college-bound or currently in a college program.
- American Foundation for the Blind
- Blinded Veterans Association
- Lighthouse International
- National Federation of the Blind
- National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
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