Do you miss reading novels, magazines or the newspaper?
Magnification and Good Task Lighting
Many people with vision loss can continue reading with the help of magnification. Typically, magnification glasses, some type of head-worn magnifier, a stand magnifier or a CCTV are the best options for reading a book or a long article in a magazine or newspaper. Along with magnification, good task lighting is very important to boost the remaining vision for reading. The optometrists working at the VIC Low Vision Clinic can assist with determining what magnifier and what type of light bulb and lamp will work best for a particular person’s visual needs. To schedule an appointment at VIC’s Low Vision Clinic please call us at (509) 452-8301 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reading large print instead of regular print might solve reading problems for people whose vision is only mildly impaired. The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, which is part of the State of Washington’s public library system, offers some magazines in large print and has a large selection of large print books. Books and magazines are mailed back and forth between the library and patrons free of charge. The Yakima Valley Libraries system also has a small selection of large print books worthwhile checking out. Large print books are also available for purchase through local bookstores.
Audio Books are a nice alternative to reading books with your eyes, if you are totally blind, your vision is very low or if even with magnification your reading speed is slow and your eyes tire fast. The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library is probably the best free resource for audio books in the State of Washington. They have a very large selection of audio books, both for fiction on non-fiction.
Another great resource for audio books is Bookshare. It is a non-profit organization that for a small membership fee offers over 45,000 digital books, textbooks, teacher-recommended reading, and periodicals:
If reading the newspaper with the help of magnification and good lighting is not possible, the National Federation of the Blind’s Newsline is worth looking into. It’s a free service for people with vision loss enabling them to listen to articles in many of the newspapers published in the U.S. The subscriber just calls a toll free number and then chooses the newspaper, he is interested, in from a menu.
For those who have a computer with magnification software and/or a screen reader as well as Internet access, reading the newspaper online is also a good option.
If you are unable to read with the help of magnification and good lighting and do not like to listen to audio books, learning Braille will enable you to continue reading books yourself. The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library offers a large variety of books and magazines in Braille. The Washington State Department of Services for the Blind has teachers, who offer Braille classes in Central Washington. If you prefer learning Braille through a free distance learning program, the Hadley School for the Blind will be a great resource for you.
Do you have problems seeing your computer screen?
There are several control panel settings that you can change to make your computer much easier to work with. These features are already built into your Windows PC and can help by:
- make the pointer larger, a contrasting color & easier to follow
- make all the pictures (icons) and words larger
- allow you to Zoom In (magnify) in Internet Explorer 7 and MS Office 2007 programs, and their later versions
Information, demonstration and tutorials can be found at Microsoft – Accessibility
If you use an Apple Macintosh computer, you should now that Mac OS X includes many features to assist people with vision loss, including a built-in screen reader, voice commands, screen magnification, high-contrast settings, and other technologies and features. They are described on the Mac OS X Accessibility page.
Screen Enhancement Programs
There are several commercial programs available that can magnify the screen, provide alternative color schemes and offer additional features that make using a computer much easier on your eyes. These programs also can read text on the screen to you. Trial versions of these programs are available via download from the Internet. Here are two examples of such programs:
Screen Reader Programs
Did you know that you don’t have to use your vision at all to access a computer? You can use a special type of program called a screen reader. These programs speak out loud the information you need from what’s displayed on the computer screen and give you ways to move around using keyboard keys instead of the mouse. To obtain a demonstration version or learn more about screen readers, visit:
Do you need help with buying assistive technology?
The Northwest Access Fund provides low interest loans to help with purchase of assistive technology devices and services through the AT AccessFund and the Telework loan program. WATF also provides a low-cost rental program for closed circuit magnification systems (CCTVs). Visit the Northwest Access Fund website.
Do you look for more information on eye diseases?
Etiology of Low Vision
Low vision can be caused by several eye diseases. The four most common are glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and cataracts. According to The Eye Digest (published by the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary) the prevalence of the following conditions is as follows:
|Advanced Age–Related macular degeneration||1.8 million people|
|Intermediate Age-Related macular degeneration||7.3 million people|
|Glaucoma||2.2 million people|
|Diabetic Retinopathy||4.1 million people|
|Cataracts||20.5 million people|
These numbers are expected to increase significantly in the coming decades.
The number of Americans with some degree of visual impairment is approximately 3.3 million people. This number is expected to double over the next three decades.
According to the American Foundation for the Blind, approximately 8.8 million males have vision loss and 12.4 million females have vision loss.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 65 and older. An estimated 13 million Americans have AMD and this number is expected to increase to 20 million by 2020.
AMD is caused by a degeneration of the macula- the part of the retina responsible for detailed central vision which allows us to read, drive and recognize faces. There are 2 types of AMD: wet and dry. Dry AMD causes a gradual progressive blurring of the central vision. Wet AMD is the more severe form and occurs in approximately 15% of all cases. In this, new blood vessels form below the retina and may leak fluid. This distorts the retina, thereby distorting the vision. Common symptoms of wet AMD are rapidly declining central vision and straight lines appearing wavy.
Treatment options for dry AMD are limited but The Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) showed that dietary supplements composed of vitamins A, C and E and zinc can help reduce the risk of advancing to more severe AMD. The AREDS 2 study is looking at the benefit of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Treatment options for wet AMD are more numerous. These include various types of laser treatment and injections of medications into the eye. Medications that get injected into the eye include steroids and anti-VEGF’s. The anti-VEGF’s work by targeting the new blood vessels.
If you want to learn more visit the following websites: MD Support: the Eyes of the Macular Degeneration Community, National Eye Institute. Other good websites to visit when looking for information on AMD are Foundation Fighting Blindness and Lighthouse International.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that results in progressive damage to the optic nerve. There are many types of glaucoma and the most common type- open angle glaucoma- is a result of increased pressure inside the eye and is a slow progressing type. Low tension glaucoma can cause similar damage but does not have increased pressure inside the eye. These forms are asymptomatic until late in the course of the disease thereby increasing the importance of routine eye exams. Acute closed angle glaucoma is a type that occurs abruptly due to a rapid increase in eye pressure. This type is symptomatic and is considered an ocular emergency.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. There are currently approximately 2 million Americans with glaucoma. This is projected to increase to between 3.5 and 4 million by 2020.
The result of glaucoma typically presents as gradual constriction of one’s peripheral vision and left unchecked will progress to tunnel vision. Damage resulting from glaucoma cannot be reversed. However, for the majority of people with glaucoma the risk of progression can be greatly reduced through the use of eye drops designed to lower the eye pressure and/or different forms of surgery that can also help to reduce the eye pressure.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes caused by damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina. The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases the longer a person has diabetes. Diabetes affects approximately 18 million with several more million undiagnosed individuals. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of visual impairment.
There are two categories of diabetic retinopathy; nonproliferative and proliferative. Nonproliferative retinopathy has varying levels of retinal involvement. This results from weakening of the tiny retinal blood vessels with resulting microaneurysms and small hemorrhages. As more of these hemorrhages appear other parts of the retina begin to starve because they are not getting the oxygen and nutrients the blood is supposed to transport to them. As a result of this progressive starvation new blood vessels can start to grow on the surface of the retina. When these new blood vessels begin to grow the retinopathy has progressed to the proliferative form.
Diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss in 2 ways. First, these new blood vessels can leak blood into the center of the eye. Second, fluid can leak into the center of the macula (macular edema), the part of the eye responsible for sharp detailed vision.
Diabetic retinopathy can be treated. In the early stages treatment is not required other than careful monitoring of the retinopathy and controlling the diabetes. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser treatment, possibly in conjunction with a vitrectomy. Macular edema can be treated with medication and/or laser treatment.
If you have diabetes, you need to take the threat of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy seriously by controlling your blood sugar level and having yearly eye exams.
A cataract is a clouding of the naturally clear lens of the eye. As the cataract progresses light can’t pass as easily to the back of the eye and the vision becomes blurry or hazy. Other symptoms may include problems with light, frequent changes in the eyeglass prescription or fading of colors.
Cataracts typically are related to aging. Twenty million Americans over the age of 40 have cataracts. Fifty percent of the population over 80 years of age has cataracts. By 2020, the estimated number of people with cataracts is expected to be more than thirty million. Cataract removal is one of the most common operations performed in the United States. It is also one of the safest surgeries. Cataracts may occur in conjunction with other eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. This may have an influence on the decision to perform cataract surgery as well as the potential outcome.
An individual with cataracts and one of these other conditions may have improved vision following cataract surgery but still have visual impairment.
For more information please visit National Eye Institute, Community Services for the Blind and Partially Sighted, or the National Library of Medicine.
Are you looking for advocacy groups for people with vision loss?
There are national organizations advocating for people with vision loss. They are the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and the American Council of the Blind (ACB). ACB has a Washington chapter, the Washington Council of the Blind, and a local chapter, the Yakima Valley Council of the Blind. The latter can be reached through its President, Sally Mayo at (509) 949-7034.
Are you concerned about retaining or finding employment due to vision loss?
The Washington State Department of Services for the Blind (DSB) offers comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services for people whose vision loss creates a significant barrier to finding or keeping employment. To find out more about DSB’s vocational rehabilitation and other services, visit Washington State Department of Services for the Blind or contact the local DSB Office at (509) 575-2014 or toll free at (800) 552-7103.
Do you need to learn adaptive skills of blindness to stay independent and active?
The Washington State Department of Services for the Blind (DSB) offers a so-called Independent Living Program for adults of all ages with vision loss, who want to learn adaptive skills of blindness for various daily living skills, but do not want to find employment. As part of this program, a teacher meets with people in their homes to assess their needs and teach them the skills needed to stay active and independent. Such skills might include, but are not limited to, cooking, cleaning or doing laundry, DSB contracts with non-profit organizations located in various parts of the State to provide this service. To find out more, visit Washington State Department of Services for the Blind or contact the local DSB Office at (509) 575-2014 or toll free at (800) 552-7103.
Do you need help applying for disability?
The Social Security and Disability Resource Center (SSDRC.com) is an informational website that provides answers to questions about how to apply for disability, how to appeal a claim in the event of a denial, how to navigate the federal system, and how to avoid certain mistakes that are commonly made by applicants. The site’s author is a former disability examiner for the social security administration. This page has information about qualifying for disability benefits.
Are you a visually impaired college student needing help to succeed?
Obtaining a college education is no easy task, but for students with visual disabilities, the path to completing a degree program is lined with unique challenges and barriers. This guide explores how visual impairments impact the educational experience, what colleges are doing for the visually impaired, and includes numerous resources, as well as insight and tips from experts and a list of scholarships and grants. A Scholarship search tool and other helpful resources for students to find the needed aid can be found here. Another guide is optimized to work with assistive technology for students with disabilities. It also includes a list of disability specific scholarships and rights for students with disabilities who are attending college.