Living with Low Vision: Tips for Adaptation and Independence 😎👓

Expert Occupational Therapist Provides Tips for Adapting to Vision Loss from Geographic Atrophy

Improve Your Vision with These Lifestyle Changes

By Kristen Shifflett, OT, as told to Keri Wiginton

Will I go completely blind from this? That’s the question everyone with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) always asks. And you’ll be relieved to know that the answer is a resounding no. While geographic atrophy (GA), an advanced form of dry AMD, may result in the loss of some or all of your central vision, there are ways to adapt and maintain your independence. So, put your worries to rest! Here are some tips to help you navigate life with low vision, stay safe, and maintain connections. 🌟

Working with a Low Vision Therapist 🤝

As an occupational therapist specializing in low vision rehabilitation, I often help individuals with vision loss learn how to independently perform daily tasks. No task is too small or insignificant. From the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, we can find strategies to make your life easier and safer. But low vision therapists don’t just focus on your vision problems alone; we take into consideration the whole body. In some cases, we may need to tap into your other senses to compensate for the loss of sight.

Take reading, for example. If you struggle with seeing fine print, there are alternative ways to obtain information from books or newspapers, such as having someone read aloud to you. However, we may also need to address hearing problems, memory challenges, arthritis, or other medical conditions that could affect your ability to adapt. Don’t worry, though—I can tailor the intervention to your comfort level with technology, making it as simple or as intricate as you prefer. 💪

Q: What are some low vision aids that can assist with reading and other tasks? A: There are a variety of low vision assistive aids available, including stand or hand-held magnifiers, CCTV video magnifiers, stronger reading glasses, devices that read out loud, and specialized cooking tools for those with low vision.

For more information, check out these helpful resources: – Low Vision Aids for ReadingAssistive Technology for People with Low Vision

Creating a New Normal 🆕

When people experience vision loss, their initial instinct is to seek a new prescription. While it’s essential to consult a low vision eye doctor for the best corrective lenses, traditional glasses are not the only solution for improving eyesight in those with low vision. External devices and assistive aids can significantly enhance everyday tasks like reading mail or working on a computer.

Once you find the right tool or strategy for you, make sure to practice using it consistently. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel in completing tasks accurately, even if it takes a little longer with the assistive device. Remember, slow and steady wins the race! 🐢

Q: How can I make text bigger or boost contrast on my smartphone or computer? A: Most devices have built-in accessibility features that allow you to adjust text size and contrast. Consult a low vision specialist if you need assistance in utilizing these features.

Check out these resources to learn more: – Accessibility Features for iPhones and iPadsAccessibility Options for Android Devices

Controlling Lighting 💡

For individuals with GA, finding the right lighting can make a world of difference. The goal is to enhance brightness without adding glare. Here are some tips to optimize your low vision lighting:

  • Use task lighting: Whether it’s reading, seeing food on your plate, or working on a jigsaw puzzle, desk or floor lamps with adjustable brightness are essential for any tabletop activity. One of my personal favorites is the Stella Go, a portable task lamp that allows you to change the color of light and adjust brightness according to your needs. It’s versatility at its finest! 💡

  • Position your light strategically: Place the light source low and between you and the activity, avoiding positioning it behind you or over your shoulder. Such positioning may cast undesired shadows, making it harder to read or focus on what you’re doing. Opt for a gooseneck lamp for better control.

  • Embrace dimmer switches: A simple on or off switch may result in a room that is either too bright or too dark. Installing dimmer switches throughout your home allows for more flexibility in adjusting light levels to your needs.

Q: How can I improve lighting conditions for activities like reading or mealtime? A: Utilize task lighting, position the light strategically, and consider installing dimmer switches in your home for better control over lighting levels.

Explore these resources for more lighting solutions: – Low Vision Lighting TechniquesLighting Tips for People with Low Vision

Tips for Social Situations 😎🎉

It’s not uncommon for individuals with low vision to feel apprehensive about social events. However, there are steps you can take to enhance your visual experience and feel more comfortable in social settings. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Find a good spot: When attending a party or restaurant, try to position yourself close to a window, facing away from it. The additional sunlight can improve your ability to see details, such as people’s faces or the menu.

  • Bring a buddy: For larger group situations like weddings or parties, consider having a friend or partner accompany you. They can assist in identifying individuals and navigate through crowds with ease.

  • Extend your hand: When meeting someone new, extend your hand for a handshake. By letting them come to you, you reduce the likelihood of misaligning your handshake.

  • Open up about your visual impairment: If you feel comfortable, inform others about your low vision. Some individuals even wear buttons that say “I have low vision” as conversation starters. Promoting awareness and understanding can help normalize the use of low vision aids in public.

Q: How can I advocate for myself and promote awareness about low vision? A: Find strategies that work for you in social situations, such as positioning yourself near light sources, having a friend or partner with you, and openly discussing your visual impairment if comfortable.

For more social tips and guidance, check out these resources: – Socializing with Vision LossTips for Coping with Vision Loss in Social Situations

Education and Awareness 🎓

People are remarkably resilient, and with time, you’ll learn to navigate the challenges posed by vision loss. However, it’s crucial to embrace and utilize your assistive devices and strategies everywhere you go. By doing so, you not only empower yourself to accomplish what you need but also contribute to normalizing the use of low vision aids in public.

While many people in society perceive vision loss as a binary—either sighted or blind—we must strive to shift this mindset and foster understanding of the diverse needs of individuals with vision impairment. Your actions can pave the way for a more inclusive and empathetic world. Let’s raise awareness together! ✨

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Photo Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Sources: – Kristen Shifflett, licensed occupational therapist and certified low vision therapist with a specialty certification in low vision, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

References: 1. Low Vision Aids for Reading: Link 2. Assistive Technology for People with Low Vision: Link 3. Accessibility Features for iPhones and iPads: Link 4. Accessibility Options for Android Devices: Link 5. Low Vision Lighting Techniques: Link 6. Lighting Tips for People with Low Vision: Link 7. Socializing with Vision Loss: Link 8. Tips for Coping with Vision Loss in Social Situations: Link

Remember, knowledge shared is power doubled! Share this article with your friends and loved ones to spread awareness and assist those with low vision. 📲✉️