Low Vision, What Does It Mean? (cont.)

What resources and strategies can help people perform daily tasks at home?

Resources and strategies depend on the severity of a person's vision impairment. At home, people need devices that can help them read, write, and manage the tasks of daily living. These adaptive devices include:

  • Adjustable lighting, prescription reading glasses, large-print publications, magnifying devices, closed-circuit televisions, cassette recordings, electronic reading machines, and computers with large print and speech output systems.

  • Simple strategies include writing with bold black felt tip markers and writing on tablets with bold lines to make it easier to write in a straight line.

  • Contrasting colors are helpful: people can place colored tape on the edges of steps to help them see the steps and prevent a fall. Dark-colored light switches and electrical outlets can provide contrast on light-colored walls.

  • Motion lights that automatically turn on when someone enters a room are helpful.

  • Telephones, clocks, and watches with large numbers can help people use those instruments more easily, and large-print labels placed on the stove and microwave oven can help, too.

Among the visual devices that can help people with low vision are reading glasses with high-powered lenses and reading prisms; telescopes and telescopic spectacles for tasks requiring vision at near, middle, and far distances; and reversed telescopes for visual field defects. These devices must be prescribed by eye care professionals, and patients must be trained to use them properly.

What agencies and organizations provide people who have low vision with help and information?

Many agencies and organizations in the community provide assistance and information to people who have low vision, and to their families and caregivers. State agencies for the blind and visually impaired can make referrals to a variety of organizations that provide assistance. Such services include vision rehabilitation, recreation, counseling, and job training or placement.

Why aren't these resources used more often?

Many people don't know that help exists. They think of low vision as a natural part of aging, not as a problem that can be treated. Others feel that these services and devices are for people who are blind, not for people with low vision. Also, the cost of many devices keeps people from obtaining them. Finally, people may know that help exists, but they don't know what their options are and aren't sure how to ask for help or whom to consult.

What should a person do if he or she knows someone with low vision?

Urge that person to make an appointment with an eye care professional for an eye examination. Then help the person find out about low vision and vision rehabilitation services and encourage him or her to take advantage of all available resources.

Is a low vision examination covered by health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare?

Policies vary by state, but generally Medicare will cover low vision examinations performed by eye care professionals. Private health insurance usually does not cover low vision examinations, but one should check with their carrier to be sure.

How can the public get a free booklet on low vision?

Call 1-877-569-8474 to order a booklet on low vision.

This information has been provided with the kind permission of the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute (www.nei.nih.gov).

Last Editorial Review: 7/7/2004