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Low Vision Tips

There are simple practical things that can be done to improve the environment for the individual with low vision, thus enhancing their capacity to continue and maintain active daily living.

Providing additional light for specific tasks can make a big difference in how well a person can see. Direct lighting from behind will reduce glare. Some sorts of light work better than others for individuals with different eye conditions. Low vision organisations and information services are good starting points for more information on lighting options. A comprehensive list of low vision organisations (by State) are contained in the publication Low Vision - A Guide.

Getting organised is a really important part of maintaining independence. If keys, money, and medications are always in the same place, they will be easier to find. Modifying everyday items such as using large print, contrasting colours and tactile markings all help to make it easier for people with vision loss to live independently.

Here is a list of ‘tips’ you can apply to your daily living:

Improve Lighting
Use directed lighting from behind the shoulder for all near tasks, such as a gooseneck lamp with an indoor 45 or 65 watt floodlight bulb. Directing light from behind will reduce glare. Ensure there is good lighting in the hall, closets, stairways, bathrooms and kitchens.

Increase Contrast
Pour coffee into white cups.
Put cereal in dark bowls.
Use white plates on dark place mats.
Have a black cutting board for onions and a white one for meat.
Hang a black towel behind you to see light hair in the mirror.
Use a felt tip pen, not a ball point.
 
Control Glare
Wear amber or dark yellow fit overs, or clip-ons and a visor outside. Experiment as different shades suit different people.
Wear yellow clip-ons inside and at night while driving. This reduces glare from on coming car headlights. Contact your optometrist for information on these products.
Cover shiny surfaces with a cloth.

Enlarge
Get large-size cheques from your bank, a large dial phone, large TV remote, large print crossword books and large print playing cards.
Copy and enlarge recipes, addresses, music sheet and menus from favourite restaurants.
Use the accessibility features on computers or purchase enlargement software.
Visit or contact your State or local low vision organisation for advice on low vision aids.

Label
Mark key positions on stove, washer and thermostat dials with bright, dimensional fabric paint available from craft or fabric stores so you can feel the correct positions.
Label spices and medicines with a dark marking pen.
Put a safety pin in the labels of black clothes to differentiate from navy.
Pin socks together before washing.

Organise
Have a place for everything, including specified spaces on kitchen shelves and in the refrigerator.
Request that everyone else in the household respect and maintain the organisational system.

The following is mostly taken from the excellent website of the AMD Alliance:

In the Kitchen
The kitchen can be a dangerous place. Ensure that items and surfaces are well lit and high in contrast. Countertops can be painted to contrast with dishes, cookware and other items. Any paint or hardware store can tell you which products would be appropriate for painting a countertop. Here are some other tips on how to make the kitchen easier to use and safer for someone with vision loss.

Kitchen Checklist:
  • Paint or replace electrical outlet covers in a colour that contrasts with the wall.
  • Instead of painting, outline counter edges and electrical outlets with wide tape of a contrasting colour.
  • If the stove surface is a light colour, consider replacing stainless steel pots and pans with dark-coloured ones.
  • Use light-coloured dishes on a dark tablecloth, or vice versa.
  • Mark frequently used settings on the oven or other dials with a thick swipe of bright nail polish or adhesive tactile labels (Velcro).
  • Re-label jars and canned goods using a thick black marker and index cards, which can be reused.
  • Remove small throw rugs from the kitchen. They are not easily seen and may be a tripping hazard.
  • Keep cupboard doors and drawers closed at all times, and make sure that everything is always put away in its proper place.
  • Use the “clock method” to identify where certain foods are located on a plate. For example, “The rice is at three o’clock, and the beans at seven o’clock.”
In the Bathroom
Here are some tips to make the bathroom as safe as possible.

Bathroom Checklist:
  • Use illuminated and magnifying mirrors in the bathroom.
  • Use coloured toothpaste so it shows more on the white bristles of a toothbrush.
  • Put the toothpaste on your finger and then apply it to the toothbrush.
  • Use towels that contrast in colour with the bathroom décor.
  • Use a rubber-backed mat in the tub.
  • Float a brightly coloured sponge while running the bath water. The sponge will indicate how high the water has risen.
  • Label current medication with a thick black letter on each bottle
  • Keep a large print list in the medicine cabinet explaining what is what e.g.“A: blood pressure pills. Take one each morning.”
  • Pick up the bath mat after each use and fold it over the edge of the tub to prevent tripping.
Lifestyles and Hobbies
People with MD often say that they cannot recognise people in the street. They can be embarrassed in social situations as they cannot see facial expressions or features. For this reason, some people with vision loss avoid social interaction. Being accompanied by a friend or companion, who can make the initial introductions, is worth considering. It may be easier for the friend to explain to people that smiles and waves cannot be seen and to encourage speakers to identify themselves when talking.

It is very hard for people with severe vision loss to find they can no longer drive. However, activities such as reading or playing a musical instrument can continue with a little patience and adjustment. Large-print books or a magnifier may help with reading. Sheet music can be enlarged using a photocopier. Braille music scores are also available.

Large-print crossword puzzles and playing cards are available for those who enjoy these activities as part of a daily routine. Sports enthusiasts can also rethink exercise programs. Walking with a friend instead of alone, using a local walking track or local oval for longer distance exercise can also be an option. Stationary bikes and other seated equipment in most gyms and fitness clubs are also an excellent way of staying active.

Changing one’s lifestyle is difficult and requires flexibility and patience, for all involved. It may be hard to change an old hobby or sport but the secret is to be creative and positive. Seeking help and talking about frustrations can be a positive option. The impact of vision loss may even be a chance to make some very exciting changes in life.

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