ADJUSTING TO AND LIVING WITH VISION IMPAIRMENT
One of the biggest obstacles for visually impaired individuals is the emotional one. Adjusting to vision loss is difficult and takes time. Many people find that a counselor or support group can help them learn to accept their vision loss so they can move forward toward a richer life. A key element in this often involves developing the skills needed to live independently despite visual impairment.
In most cases, people with even severe vision loss can continue to live independently. In fact, even people who are totally blind can prepare meals, clean their homes, groom themselves, pick out their own clothes, manage their households and pay their own bills. These tasks may require some training, but a visually impaired person usually can perform them successfully.
While visual impairment doesn’t have to hold you back, there will be some tasks that you may need to assign to others. Driving may be one such activity. Fortunately, many communities offer transportation services for the visually impaired.
APPS FOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED AND BLIND
These days, there’s an app for just about everything. In fact, a number of innovative companies have developed very useful mobile device applications for people who are visually impaired or blind.
You can download them from iTunes (for iOS devices) or Google Play (for Android devices). Here’s a partial list:
KNFB Reader. This app enables a visually impaired person to take a photo of any printed document — including mail, receipts, memos and many other documents — and the phone will read it aloud.
TapTapSee. This app utilizes the mobile device’s camera and voiceover functions to photograph objects and identify them out loud for the user.
VizWiz. This app allows visually impaired and blind individuals to receive quick answers to questions about their surroundings. VizWiz users take a picture with their phone, ask a question, and then receive spoken answers from people recruited from their social network or from anonymous web workers.
LookTel Money Reader. This app allows blind and visually impaired individuals to know the value of the paper money they are holding. The app recognizes the bills and immediately speaks the denomination, enabling users to quickly identify and count their cash.
WHAT ARE LOW VISION DEVICES?
Low vision devices can help you make the most of your vision so that you can perform everyday tasks more easily and with less frustration.
Some devices, such as optical and non-optical aids, offer very simple and relatively inexpensive solutions. Other devices, such as electronic and digital magnifiers, may be slightly more complex and costly. However, both optical devices and electronic or digital devices require training to use them efficiently and effectively. Training is always one of the main keys to success with the use of low vision devices.
There are several different categories of low vision devices: optical devices, non-optical devices, and electronic magnifiers and magnifying systems. Low vision devices are task-specific, designed for close-up visual tasks or distance viewing. You may require several different devices to accomplish different tasks, depending upon your eye condition and your everyday living needs.
Low Vision Optical Devices include a variety of helpful visual aids, including stand and hand-held magnifiers, strong magnifying reading glasses, loupes, and small telescopes. Because these devices can provide greatly increased magnification powers and prescription strengths, along with higher-quality optics (i.e., the way the lens bends or refracts light), they are different from regular glasses and magnifiers that you can buy in a local store or online. Most often they require training to help you use them effectively.
LOW VISION NON-OPTICAL DEVICES
Low vision non-optical devices can include adaptations such as reading stands, supplemental lighting, absorptive (or glare control) sunglasses, typoscopes, and tactile locator dots. They can be used in combination with low vision optical devices and can help with reading, organizing, labeling, and a variety of everyday tasks.
ELECTRONIC MAGNIFYING SYSTEMS
Electronic magnifying systems come in many different varieties and sizes, depending upon the task or activity you want, or need, to do. Some have a camera system that displays a magnified image on a monitor, which can be helpful for reading mail, books, and magazines, while others are hand-held, portable, and can be taken to the supermarket to read labels and coupons, or to restaurants for reading menus.