Tips for living with vision loss
You can improve your environment to make it easier to live with vision loss by adopting a few simple changes.
It’s important to think about what light you need for different areas of your home.
Using brighter bulbs can help you see better – so make sure stairs, bathrooms, kitchens and other areas of activity are well lit. Using dimmer bulbs may help prevent uncomfortable reactions to strong lights and glare.
Moving a lamp closer will increase the brightness which may make it easier to read print, see small buttons on appliances or pour a drink. Be careful if lamps have metal shades, which may burn you if you get too close.
You could consider dimmer switches for controlling the amount of light in the room, or placing extra lighting, extra lighting switches or even preset light timers in difficult areas like hallways and stairs.
If you are installing new light switches, consider switch plates that are lighted or contrast with your wall colour.
Consider under cabinet lighting for tasks in the kitchen or work areas.
Low vision organisations can provide advice on lighting for different situations around the home.
Pour coffee or other dark liquids into white cups and put white plates on dark place mats. Chop dark items (e.g. steak) on a light chopping board and light items (e.g. onion) on a dark chopping board.
Wear sunglasses and a hat or visor outside. Cover shiny surfaces with a cloth. Sit with your back or side to the window.
Photograph and enlarge recipes, phone numbers, addresses, sheet music and menus. Use the magnification features on electronic devices and computers. Use a felt-tip pen, not a ball point. A magnifier may help with reading small print.
Use bright, contrasting labels, dark felt pens and raised tactile paint on dials, remotes and domestic appliances.
If you’re going out to dinner, check out the menu online or ask them to email you a copy, instead of asking people to read it to you in the restaurant. Similarly, if you know you’ll have to fill out a form (medical forms, travel forms), ring ahead and ask them to send it to you, so you can fill it out in the well-lit comfort of home.
We’ve collected some brilliant tips from members of the macular disease community about ways to stay safe and make living with vision loss a little easier.
Around the home
Place a contrasting and non-slip strip (about 50mm wide) on the front edge of steps to make them easier to see and to reduce the risk of falls.
Take a moment to let your eyes adjust when switching from a bright environment to a dimly lit one. Put a chair just inside the door, so you have a place to sit while your eyes adjust.
Keep cupboard doors and drawers closed at all times, and put away items in the same place each time.
Mark door handles and steps with reflective tape.
Be aware of stairs, steps and changes in levels.
In the kitchen
Use contrasting colours. Consider using dishes and cookware in a colour that contrasts with your countertop.
Replace electrical outlet covers in a colour that contrasts with the wall.
Outline counter edges and electrical outlets with wide tape of a contrasting colour.
Try to ensure your pots and pans contrast with your stove-top.
Use light-coloured dishes on a dark tablecloth, or vice versa.
Mark frequently used settings on the oven with adhesive tactile labels such as velcro.
Re-label jars and canned goods using a thick black marker and index cards, which can be reused.
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 are at seven o’clock’.
In the bathroom
Use illuminated and magnifying mirrors.
Put toothpaste directly into your mouth instead of on 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, as the sponge will indicate how high the water has risen.
Regularly review any prescribed medications with your doctor or pharmacist, including any concerning or unusual side effects. Some medicines have side effects that can cause you to feel drowsy, confused or dizzy, putting you at higher risk of falling.
Keep a list of all your prescription and non-prescription medicines.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any supplements you’re taking to ensure you’re not at risk of an adverse reaction.
To ensure you take the correct dose at the correct time, ask your pharmacist about a specially designed pack for people who have vision loss
Ask for help if you have difficulty reading the labels or you may be able to read the print with a magnifier or torch.
Out and about
Wear a badge (available from MDFA) to help others understand you have low vision.
Wear appropriate shoes with slip-resistant soles that grip.
Choose well-lit routes to travel.
Find alternate routes around dangerous intersections and construction areas.
Use curbing or line up streetlights as a guide.
Wherever possible avoid stairs (take the elevator or escalator instead).
Cross the road at the traffic lights where possible, (they will make a sound when it’s safe to cross) or cross where you can see and be seen.
Be aware of cars pulling into or out of driveways.
Always look for cars and do not rely on hearing them as electric cars make little to no noise.
Identify coins by touch and distinguish note values by feeling for the bumps on the sides.
Carry a magnifier and/or penlight to read labels, price tags, elevator buttons, or directions.
Use your phone to record your shopping list, instead of struggling with a handwritten list.
Call ahead when travelling to an unfamiliar place and ask about the best place to be dropped off.
When using public transport
Plan ahead and allow ample time to travel.
Ask the bus driver to wait until you are seated before they start driving.
Tell the bus driver in advance which stop you require.
Sit at the front of the bus and near the door.
Find a travel agent who can help plan trips for people with low vision.
Join a walking group to maintain an active lifestyle.
Adapt social activities for example with large print cards or board games.
Seek out low vision activity or support groups.