There are many tools and technology options that can reduce the impact of vision loss, and help you to continue to be independent in your home and community.
There are also a range of communication strategies that you can try to help you be fully informed about your own vision and determine what you need.
Low vision specialists
If your vision loss cannot be completely corrected by your regular eye care professional, a low vision specialist can conduct the needed low vision examination to help you make the best use of your remaining vision. The assessment can include identifying ways to better manage everyday tasks such as reading, writing, walking, navigation, grooming, cooking, cleaning and leisure activities.
Your local blindness organisation will be able to put you in touch with a low vision specialist.
Tools and Technology
Many children and adults with a vision loss will use technology everyday. Sometimes it will be the same technology everyone uses, and sometimes it will be especially designed for people with vision loss.
Individual needs and technology will change over time so it is useful to keep up to date. Many different options can be found through contacting your local blindness organisation or through an internet search.
Low vision optical devices use lenses to magnify images so that objects or print appear larger to the eye. Examples include magnifying reading glasses, stand magnifiers, hand-held magnifiers, and small pocket-sized telescopes. These special optical devices are different from regular glasses and magnifiers. It is helpful to think of low vision optical aids as specific tools for specific uses. These are not intended as all-purpose aids. It is critical that someone with low vision gets the correct magnifier at the correct strength so do seek professional advice.
Non-optical devices and modifications do not use lenses to magnify images. Instead, they increase lighting levels, improve contrast, decrease the effects of glare, or increase print size to make objects and print more easily visible. There are hundreds of devices that can help people with low vision manage their everyday living tasks. Examples include high-intensity table or floor lamps, large print reading materials, electronic video magnifiers, and iPads and tablets. Absorptive lenses are sunglasses that filter out ultraviolet and infrared light, reduce glare, and increase contrast. Non-optical devices can also be used in combination with magnifiers and other low-vision optical devices.
Adaptive daily living equipment includes devices that are designed to make everyday tasks easier to do with little or no vision. For example tools for:
- Independent movement and travelsuch as getting around indoors, walking with a guide, using a long white cane, crossing streets, using public transportation, and using electronic travel devices and mobile apps.
- Independent living and personal managementsuch as preparing meals, managing money, labelling medications, making home repairs, reading, writing and studying, enjoying crafts, hobbies, and shopping. Clocks and timers with large numerals, writing guides, needle threaders, large print or talking watches, large print and tactile labels, and talking pill bottles are examples of such equipment.
- Lighting Depending on your eye condition, controlling light intensity, minimising glare and maximising contrast for specific tasks can be helpful. There are a range of general and task focussed lighting available and can be useful to explore what works best.
Job training and vocational rehabilitation services such as job training and placement, workplace adaptations, and workplace technology.
Counselling and peer support groups to help you and your family members with adjusting to vision loss and managing stress, anxiety, and depression.
Financial and other supports
If you are legally blind, you may be eligible for:
- Social security benefits (Centrelink)
- Accessible public transportation
- Taxi User Subsidy Scheme
- Companion Card
Eligibility may vary from state to state.
COMMUNICATION – MAKING YOUR THOUGHTS AND NEEDS CLEAR
The essence of good communication is balancing opportunities for helping and for receiving help. Knowing when to ask for help is a dilemma for most people – whether they have a disability or not.
Some good guiding principles are:
- cherish your independence; ask for things when you need them;
- gently and cheerfully remind people when they fail to be inclusive;
- mention your sight loss as a fact of life
- Consult your own understanding of the real impact of your sight loss and your own sense of fair play.
- Approach each and every task or responsibility by asking yourself: • Can I do this myself? • Is it really the other person’s responsibility? • Am I asking for something unrealistic? • Am I giving as well as I’m getting?
Consider who might be most appropriate to ask for help. If the help you receive is inappropriate for any reason, don’t make the helper feel bad. Ask the helper again, reminding them what it is you’re trying to achieve, or ask another person you explain what you need. Importantly, remember concise and unambiguous requests are best.
Don’t make people guess what you want or need. Be forgiving if you do ask and they forget your request. It happens. We have to be aware of, as well as accept, our limitations and strengths and we need the confidence to be able to share that information with anyone at any time.
Adapted from: Your Blue Book (retina.org.nz)
ORIENTATION AND MOBILITY
With minimal financial or time commitments, you can make it easier to move around your community independently and safely.
Orientation and mobility specialists can help you to learn useful skills through training in:
- How to use your remaining senses to determine where you are.
- Techniques for safe movement from one place to another. Instructional skills include:
- Sensory and motor development.
- Use of residual vision and low vision devices.
- Sighted guide techniques.
- White Cane techniques.
- Route planning.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Techniques for crossing streets.
- The use of public transport.
Some tips for travelling outside of your home are:
- Pre-plan your route by identifying landmarks that are easy for you to detect and use them as reference points.
- If a sighted guide will be required plan to organise this.
- Consider using public transport, taxi or Uber.
- If travelling by bus and are unable to read the bus timetable, almost all bus companies will have a customer help line. If you let them know you’re blind/vision impaired they’ll advise you how to get from A to B.
When moving around your community consider:
- Lighting (carrying a torch)
- Planning your journey to avoid hours of darkness or adverse lighting conditions such as late afternoon sun.
- Choosing the most navigable route, by selecting orientation landmarks that are easily identified by size, contrast, smell or terrain.
- Controlling glare by wearing appropriate sunglasses or visors.
- Being organised, preparing scenario plans, enlarged route maps, and phone numbers for assistance.
Some City Councils have developed special accessibility maps which will help people with disabilities find their way around more easily.
Whether you use an application on a smartphone or just telephone your local council, you will usually be able to learn of activities that may affect or alter the routes you normally travel. You may also like to sign up for alerts from your local vision support services.
Adapted from: Your Blue Book (retina.org.nz)
Leisure, recreation and sport
Participation in recreational activities, whether they are energetic and challenging or quiet and relaxing, is integral to our physical and mental wellbeing. There are a number of ways in which participation is made possible for people with a vision loss and a wide range of sports and activities can be enjoyed through adaptation, guides and equipment. For example:
- Tandem Cycling
- Martial arts
Contact your local sports association or vision support services to discover the range of options available near you.