Posts Tagged ‘low vision’

LIKE THIS! Facebook for people with low vision

Posted on: April 7th, 2016 by lowvision

Facebook is making changes in a big way this week for those who suffer from visual impairments. More than 30 million across the globe are blind, and over 30 million in America alone suffer from low vision caused by eye diseases like cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

An integral part of many social media platforms is imagery – and Facebook is one of the biggest players in that space. Like The Verge says, “It’s difficult to imagine Facebook without photos.” But for the blind and those who suffer from low vision, the Facebook world has been quite different – until now.

This week, Facebook launched a feature called “automatic alternative text” which will automatically describe the content of photos to blind and visually impaired users. According to The Verge, auto alt text will use an iPhone’s voiceover to read descriptions of the photos aloud to users. While still in it’s early stages, it can already identify concepts in categories including transportation, nature, sports, food and people. It’s currently available to iPhone users, but will later be available to Android users and via the web.

Facebook’s team recognized they needed to create a solution to this problem if they wanted everyone to be a part of the community – so with hard work and help from artificial intelligence, that’s what they did.

To read more about the new feature, visit: http://www.theverge.com/2016/4/5/11364914/facebook-automatic-alt-tags-blind-visually-impared

Making spirits bright over the holidays

Posted on: December 22nd, 2015 by lowvision

The holidays can be wonderful, but the many activities surrounding this time of year can present some unique challenges for persons with low vision. Fortunately, by utilizing a few basic adaptive strategies and aids, anyone with low vision can enjoy all the opportunities this special season has to offer! If you or someone you know has low vision, this Top Ten Tips and Tricks from SeniorJournal.com and the Hadley School for the Blind will assist you in making the holidays fun and accessible:

  1. If sending holiday greeting cards is one of your traditions, using a writing guide or template and a flair tipped pen can keep this activity easy and enjoyable.
  2. Why not transfer a holiday contact list in an old address book to a new, large print version? This can be a terrific activity for a helpful grandchild.1)   If sending holiday greeting cards is one of your traditions, using a writing guide or template and a flair tipped pen can keep this activity easy and enjoyable.
  3. Cooking is a time-honored pastime. If favorite recipes are becoming difficult to read, consider re-typing them in large, bold font and preserving them in a large print recipe book. You might also consider sliding each page into a plastic sleeve that can be wiped clean of spills. What a perfect gift for a friend or relative with low vision!
  4. Speaking of cooking, when preparing a holiday meal, keep all pot handles turned toward the side of the stove. This will keep them out of the way and prevent unnecessary spills.
  5. Lighting your home for the holidays is a fun and important part of the season.  Make sure all extension cords are safely out of the way of foot traffic to prevent accidents.
  6. When visiting friends and family, why not bring along a flashlight to illuminate dark walkways and entryways?
  7. If company visits, ask them to remember to close cabinets, not to leave doors ajar, and to respect home organization.
  8. Holiday shopping is a pleasure, but reading small labels on merchandise can be difficult. Bringing along a handheld magnifier can make the experience easier.
  9. Going out to eat with friends is fun. Organizing your cash beforehand can reduce confusion when paying your bill. Keep denominations in separate compartments of your wallet or have a system or folding bills for identification.
  10. Finally, we all know how busy schedules are this time of year.  A large print calendar and a low vision or talking watch will keep you up to speed on all the activities!

Using these tips can make for a very happy holiday and a safe and wonderful New Year!

Are you concerned about driving as you age?

Posted on: October 29th, 2015 by lowvision

Your eyesight can change as you get older. It might be harder to see people, things, and movement outside your direct line of sight. It may take you longer to read street or traffic signs or even recognize familiar places. At night you may have trouble seeing things clearly. Glare from oncoming headlights or street lights can be a problem. Depending on the time of the day, the sun might be blinding.

Low vision eye diseases, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration, as well as some medicines, can also cause vision problems.

Safe driving tips from the National Institute on Aging include:

  • If you are 65 or older, see your eye doctor at least every 1 to 2 years. Ask if there are any ways to improve your eyesight. Many vision problems can be treated. For instance, cataracts might be removed with surgery.
  • If you need glasses or contact lenses to see far away while driving, make sure your prescription is up-to-date and correct. And always wear them when you are driving.
  • Cut back on night driving or stop driving at night if you have trouble seeing in the dark. Try to avoid driving during sunrise and sunset when the sun can be directly in your line of vision.

If you ever feel unsure of yourself behind the wheel, turn in your keys and make an appointment with a low vision specialist who can help you with devices and vision rehabilitation to help you determine your safe driving plan. To find a low vision specialist in your area, click here.

How do YOU deal with your low vision?

Posted on: October 15th, 2015 by lowvision

Each person’s story about living with low vision is unique. Some are new to the low vision community, while others have been living with low vision for many years. One of the best ways to come to terms with low vision is to learn how others cope in the real world with visual impairments.

Read more about one woman’s journey with low vision here: Lori’s story

Low Vision and the Hispanic Community

Posted on: April 23rd, 2015 by lowvision

Aging increases risk of developing low vision disorders. However, other factors like ethnicity can also impact potential of certain eye diseases.

A recent poll by Research!America found that more than a third of Hispanic American respondents, 38 percent, feared vision loss and said it would have the greatest impact on their life. The poll also found that six in 10 Hispanic respondents (63 percent) were concerned that loss of vision would impact their independence, and 60 percent were concerned about the impact it would have on their quality of life.

We have created a printable document with more information about low vision in the Hispanic community. You can access the document here: Low Vision in the Hispanic Community

Low Vision and African Americans

Posted on: April 23rd, 2015 by lowvision

Aging increases risk of developing low vision disorders. However, other factors like ethnicity can also impact potential of certain eye diseases.

A recent poll by Research!America found that a majority of African American respondents, 57 percent, feared vision loss and said it would have a great impact on their lives – more so than fears of losing speech, memory, and hearing. Additionally, 66 percent of African Americans feared that loss of vision would impact their independence, while 59 percent feared it would have on their quality of life.

While vision loss and low vision disorders affect all Americans, African Americans are disproportionately affected. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 200,000 African Americans suffer with low vision, and that number is expected to increase to 366,000 by 2030.

We have created a printable document with more information about the prevalence of low vision and aging eye disease in the African American community. You can access it here:  Low Vision in the African American Community

Shining a Light on Low Vision: Bringing Seniors and Caregivers Together

Posted on: April 10th, 2014 by lowvision

Low vision is reduced vision that can’t be corrected with lenses, and occurs primarily in older adults. The degree of debilitation varies from senior to senior, but common complaints include blurred vision, tunnel vision, blind spots, or difficulty seeing up close or far away. It differs from blindness in that seniors still retain some vision, but not enough to go about daily activities completely independently. As it’s not an easy part of aging to adjust to or plan for, here’s how caregivers can help seniors who have low vision.

What to Say
Seniors can feel frustrated, frightened and angry at having their vision “stolen” from them, as it can prevent them from enjoying the activities they’ve grown to love. The main thing caregivers can say is to express their understanding of the senior’s low vision, and do so in a way that that’s sympathetic, not pitying.

As a caregiver, I find one of the key phrases that works best for seniors with low vision is, “What can I do to help you feel at ease, or make your life easier?” Seniors’ minds can’t be read, but they’ll appreciate a caregiver who takes the time to find out what will help them instead of what’s easy. Often times, seniors may want to vent about their low vision and as caregivers, listening is part of our responsibility. We don’t always have to be rushing around fetching things or moving seniors into more comfortable positions, as our title—giver of care—is open to many different interpretations.

Other verbalizations we can offer seniors may not even come in the way of asking them questions, but in reading them their favorite books, stories or newspapers. Without a low vision aid, seniors can miss out on being involved with the world by not being able to read the words in front of them. Once I’ve established a relationship with each senior and gotten to know their likes and dislikes, tastes, and preferences, I can jump right in and read to them in the way they’re used to. Some seniors like me to pause in the middle and engage in conversation about what we’re reading, while others just want to be around a soothing voice. It’s up to you as the caregiver to take the time to learn your senior’s personality.

What to Do
It’s important, as a caregiver, to help seniors retain as much independence and quality of life as possible. While they may not be able to do activities like driving or navigating new places easily, low vision doesn’t mean they’re cut off from life entirely. Rather, it’s just a bit of a learning curve to find the ideal point between what seniors are willing to do, what they can do, and what may be a danger for them to do.

Many senior-oriented activities are an excellent choice because they cater to their needs and offer experiences at a more relaxed pace, and there’s almost nothing that’s not a possibility. Even activities like cards, yoga, swimming or lawn bowling—activities where people usually think eyesight is key—are great for seniors.

Assisting seniors with activities may mean you have to take on a more physical role than usual, but it’s best to check with the senior just how much they’re comfortable with. Some of my seniors are fine with plenty of human contact, while others will only accept the bare minimum. With the latter, I can take them swimming and be there right beside them in the pool, guiding them along. For the latter, activities like Bingo are better suited for us.

What to Bring
If seniors have been diagnosed with low vision, they most likely have their own array of equipment and tools to help them along each day, such as digital magnifiers, speech recognition software, lighted handheld magnifiers, bioptic telescopes, special light fixtures, UV tinted eyewear, large-print material, visors, and many others.

I also find that most seniors are pretty comfortable with me bringing my own equipment to them, as long as I explain what it is first, how they can use it, and go at a slow, relaxed pace. Low vision is frightening enough for seniors without them needing to feel pressured or burdened by a caregiver “knowing all”, so take the time to establish trust right off the bat.

Another thing seniors appreciate is when I use my eyes to help theirs, such as rearranging a table lamp so it’s placed right on the task we’ll be doing, and shading the glare or reflection from their eyes. They still have some eyesight left, but their eyes tend to be more sensitive now. If possible, I also engage them away from reflective surfaces like Formica counter tops, ensure there’s not a huge difference in light levels, and place them with their backs to windows
One of my seniors impacted by low vision tends to be particularly affected by bright lights, so when we gather with other seniors to play Bingo, I take extra care in seating him. I wheel him to a section of the table where he’s in the middle of the overhead lights, give him his visor to put on, and take a few minutes to explain to him what his Bingo card numbers are (he has a very sharp memory and can recall all of them). Once the game starts, my role becomes just to watch and see he’s in comfort, and make sure he slides the right window on his Bingo card.

Being a caregiver for seniors with low vision is no different than being a caregiver in general. It’s just a matter of getting used to what they need, depending on the severity of their low vision and if it’s accompanied by any other conditions. It can also create a deeper bond between senior and caregiver because the latter is literally acting as the eyes for the former, and they become intertwined on a primal level.

Contributed by Jan Bolder from LivingSenior.com

February is National Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month

Posted on: February 19th, 2014 by lowvision

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of severe vision loss in U.S. adults over age 60. The devastating condition affects the central vision of as many as 15 million Americans, impairing their ability to see normally and perform many necessary tasks.

This February, in observance of National AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month, we encourage Americans over the age of 60 to learn the warning signs of AMD and schedule an annual dilated eye exam. If you or a loved has already been diagnosed with AMD or low vision, check out our section on low vision devices to discover what tools and resources can help support a more independent life.

Understanding AMD
AMD is the gradual but persistent breakdown of the macula, which is the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects clearly. Over time, this deterioration can affect the ability to read, drive, identify faces, watch television, navigate stairs and perform a suite of other daily tasks. For many adults, this visual deterioration occurs in one eye and may eventually form in the other.

There are two types of AMD – “dry” and “wet”. The majority of people with AMD have the “dry” form, which is less severe and develops gradually. It is important to carefully monitor central vision when diagnosed with AMD, because it can quickly develop into a more serious condition – wet AMD.

Risk Factors
According to vision experts, the top five risk factors for AMD are:

  • Being over the age of 50
  • Family history
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they have a macular problem until they notice blurred or distorted vision. If you or someone in your family is at an increased risk for AMD, see an eye care provider as soon as possible to undergo an eye exam. Early detection of AMD is the most important step to preventing serious vision loss.

Treatment Options
There is no treatment for dry AMD but doctors have found a link between nutrition and the progression of dry AMD. Introducing low-fat foods and dark leafy greens into your diet can slow vision loss and may even increase your overall wellness.

If wet AMD is detected early, laser treatment is a popular method to help prevent severe vision loss.

As we observe National AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month, take this opportunity to reduce your risk of developing AMD. Avoid smoking, exercise regularly, maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol, and eat a healthy diet that includes green leafy vegetables and fish. For extra motivation, find a friend, partner or neighbor to engage in healthy habits with you!

If you or a loved one suffers from AMD or vision impairment, what is the best piece of advice you’ve gotten regarding life with low vision? Share with us in the comment section!

Information courtesy of  http://discoveryeye.org/what-is-amd/

 

Tell Your Story

Posted on: September 24th, 2013 by lowvision

If you are one of the millions of Americans living with low vision, you have a story to tell. Your world has changed as your sight had changed. You are forced to change the way you do things, adapting your activities of daily living to accommodate for your vision changes. Low vision devices are instruments that you can use to help navigate this new world. But, which low vision device is right for you?

As with so many questions today, the answer is: it depends. It depends on your needs, wants, activity level, and allotted budget. One answer is certain, however, it all starts with your eye care provider. If your eye care provider is not a low vision specialist, ask them to recommend one. Alternately you can look at our doctor locator here to find one in your area.

When you go to see the low vision specialist it is important to TELL YOUR STORY. This includes sharing:

  • Medical history—optical health is related to overall health
  • Previous eye injuries
  • Current level of activity
  • What you want to do that you are having trouble doing because of diminished vision

The first three items are easy to explain. The fourth may require a bit of a reality check. Your vision is no longer perfect, and even with the best low vision devices on the market, you will not be able to see 20/20. But there are devices that can accommodate your specific wants and needs if you tell your specialist your story. For instance, if you love knitting, but stopped when your vision began to blur, there are low vision devices for that. If your passion is watching movies, there are devices for that as well. And if you want to be able to ride a bike or drive, there are even devices for this, depending on your visual capabilities and the laws in your state. There is a good chance that you will have to choose a few activities—you can’t have it all!

Once your low vision specialist knows your story—who you are, where you came from, and where you want to go—he or she will be able to help you select a low vision device that is right for you, and offer the proper training so you can use the device to optimize your remaining sight to accomplish your desired tasks.

To find out more about some low vision devices available, you can look on our website, here. This link shows some options that assist people who want to accomplish near tasks, intermediate-distance tasks, and long-distance tasks.

The 4 “A”s of Low Vision: Access, Awareness, Availability, Acceptance

Posted on: July 18th, 2013 by lowvision

It’s no secret that aging and changes in vision are related to one another. Although eye disorders and loss of vision can affect people throughout their lives, the prevalence of vision loss is likely to grow as you age. A recent report from Prevent Blindness America puts the economic burden of eye disorders and vision loss in the U.S. at $139 billion. That’s why access to low vision resources—such as low vision devices and vision rehabilitation services—is so important to individuals 60+ who are struggling to see and to maintain an independent lifestyle.

I recently heard Dr. Michael Fischer, Chief of Optometry Service at Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, speak at Prevent Blindness’ Washington, DC Focus on Eye Health Summit. In addition to offering background on the problem of low vision in the U.S., he offered key points that he calls the “Four A’s of Low Vision: Access, Awareness, Availability and Acceptance.”

A few facts first: The U.S. has an aging population. By the year 2020, there will be close to 90 million people in the U.S. 65 years of age or older.

  • Age-related macular degeneration is the #1 cause of vision impairment in people 55+ in U.S.;
  • Diabetic retinopathy is the #1 cause of vision impairment in the working age U.S. population
    • 25.8M people in the U.S. have diabetes and another estimated 7M are undiagnosed;
    • Of people 40+, 2.9M have some degree of vision impairment, not including blindness.

Recognizing the symptoms of low vision early and taking the proper actions may help preserve sight and in some cases, can lessen the advance of low vision.

Dr. Fischer highlighted four reasons specifically that are challenges for low vision sufferers.

Access—Low vision progresses slowly. The ultimate goal for low vision patients and their doctors is to detect low vision early in order to maintain remaining sight and prevent further deterioration in vision. Scheduling a regular visit to an eye care provider is an important step in maintaining eye health. If you know someone who needs transportation to or from the eye exam, help him/her find a way to get there. Second, who’s going to pay/cover services? Medicare doesn’t cover all vision care; however, it does cover certain types of therapy including vision rehabilitation. Having access to an eye care provider or vision rehabilitation specialist will help restore and maintain the independence that is so important to older individuals today.

Awareness— Eye care providers don’t always spend time on a low vision assessment. It is important for individuals to explain any vision changes to their eye care provider and to ask for a low vision assessment if their symptoms are representative of low vision. Look out for elderly family, friends and neighbors who might be experiencing some of the signs of low vision and help them know that low vision exams exist and can help them with their vision concerns.

Availability— Not every eye care provider is a low vision specialist. Eye care providers will be able to recognize low vision symptoms, and if they are not able to do an assessment, they should be able to refer their patients to a specialist. Signs of low vision are broader than presbyopia (the need for reading glasses in order to focus on near objects) and include:

  • Areas of blurred or distorted vision or spots and blotches in vision
  • Shadowed or darkened field of view or noticeable loss of peripheral vision
  • A gradual loss of central vision
  • Cloudy and blurred vision or exaggerated “halos” around bright lights
  • Blind spots in your field of view

Acceptance–It is difficult for a person of any age to admit that his or her vision is deteriorating. Eye patients are often looking for a “cure” for their low vision—such as a stronger glasses prescription or a medical solution. Low vision patients need the appropriate counsel and the comfort of knowing that with vision rehabilitation and low vision devices, most people can remain independent for many years.

To get started on the search for a low vision specialist, start here on www.whatislowvision.org by clicking on ‘Find a Low Vision Specialist.’