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October 2012

Help SEE

Dr Binita Thakore
Partially vision impaired persons are those whose vision is so poor that they have difficulty going about daily activities. For them, simple activities like moving about and managing oneself in environments both familiar and unfamiliar, is stressful or impossible altogether.
The cause of such impaired vision may be an eye injury suffered during an accident, or eye disorders like glaucoma or age-related retinal diseases. Vision loss suffered so, cannot be regained and medical help and rehabilitation emphasizes on preserving and utilizing the residual vision to the fullest potential. A combination of additional aid from low vision devices and suitable modifications in the environment the person lives in, is the normal approach to treatment.

Low Vision Aids

Magnifiers:The simplest low vision aids that you can provide the visually impaired are magnifiers. They are thick lenses that magnify objects and text, and are available in varying powers. For the aged or people with shaky hands, magnifiers with a stand are helpful while reading. There are also magnifiers with illumination facility to make the text brighter. One can also use a portable video magnifier or a pocket magnifier while shopping to see small print on price tags and instructions.

Text and writing guides: Cheque writers, writing guides and signature guides are designed to help the vision impaired sign on cheques and documents. Large print versions of books are helpful to those who love to read. Bold fibre tip pens or marker pens help to improve contrast and the legibility of writing and are recommended for children suffering from low vision.

Computer software: While using or working with computers, the vision impaired can use computer softwares that magnify text on the computer screen and even read out the words that appear on the screen. Cameras placed in a video magnifier can be attached to TV or computer in order to make it easier to read newspapers and bills. With patience, one can read the magnified letters on screen easily.

Multicoloured keyboard or Clevy keyboard or a keyboard which has large font keys also helps.

Electronic devices like the Clear Reader can take a picture of the text and read it out in some languages. The text can also be stored in a pen-drive!

Ensuring The Safety Of The Vision Impaired
Reducing the risk of fall and injury assumes priority while catering to the safety of the vision impaired. Some tips from the American Foundation for the Blind:
  • Keep rooms well lit. Good overall lighting is a must.
  • Use task lighting to make everyday activities easier.
  • Use night lights in bedrooms, hallways, bathrooms, and the kitchen to make it easier to navigate in the dark.
  • Make stairways safer by placing a brightly coloured strip of tape along the edge of each step.
  • Make door frames and light switches easier to see by painting them a colour that contrasts with the walls around them.
  • Cut light-coloured items on a dark cutting board and dark items on a light cutting board.
  • Place plates and food service items on placemats that are of a contrasting colour.
  • Use pill organizers with raised markings or talking labels to help prevent medication mishaps.

Rehabilitation & Mobility Training

Mobility training helps vision impaired people to move around with more ease in familiar environments - like home. Counselling and motivating the patients and exercising patience with both the patients and their caretakers play a major role.

Improving Quality Of Life
  • Use tinted spectacle lenses to control glare.
  • Use large text when reading, doing puzzles and playing cards
  • Use Braille books if necessary
  • Listen to music or audio versions of books you would like to read
  • Sit closer to the TV and ensure that lighting is optimal in the room
  • Use household items designed for those with low vision, like clocks, watches and telephones with large letters.
  • Use bright curtains with contrasting colours
Bold fibre tip pens or marker pens are recommended for children suffering from low vision...
Dr Binita Thakore is Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist & Glaucoma Specialist, Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad.