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«The Macular Degeneration Foundation Guides Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide: The fourth in a series of guides produced by the Foundation. It ...»

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• Assessing the client’s eye disease and the effect upon vision and explaining this to the client

• Learning techniques to enhance remaining vision and maximise the use of other senses

• Discussion on the psychological and social impacts of vision loss

• Referral to counselling and support

• Comprehensive information and practical demonstrations on the use of low vision aids and technologies best suited to needs

• Information on modifications for the home or workplace

• A visit to the home for advice on living well and safely in the home

• Orientation and mobility training to help get out and about

• Information on eligibility and access for subsidies or entitlements Question What is my current level of vision? What specific problems do I have? What does it mean for daily living?

Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide 11 5 Information on aids and technologies Obtaining accurate and current information on what is available with aids and technology to meet your needs is critical to a positive outcome.

After a low vision assessment you may only require a simple magnifier or you may require stronger magnification with an electronic magnifier.

You may need better lighting and daily living aids like a talking watch.

Whatever your need, obtaining information on the range of aids and technologies is important.

Question What aids and technologies are available to help me? Why would they help me?

6 Decision making Making an informed decision means considering all aspects of your situation before proceeding and gives confidence in the decision.

Your decision making will be different for different levels of aids and technology. eg a low vision aid such as a simple hand held magnifier is not likely to need a trial period but a higher magnification and technology based item, such as an electronic magnifier, may require a warranty and trial period.

What is the most useful and cost effective choice for my needs? Can I view a range of aids and technologies? Is it necessary to trial prior to purchase? Is the product practical, affordable and manageable? Does the product come with a warranty and/or service support? Are there subsidies available or does my health insurance provide a rebate? Does the aid or technology come with clear instructions? Is second hand equipment available?

7 Trialling equipment If possible, being able to trial technology based equipment, for a period at home, is a practical and sensible approach, especially if it is a higher cost item.

12 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide Question Can someone show me how to use the product? Is there a free trial period available? Can I trial new technology in my home or workplace and for how long? Is there any obligation after the trial period? Have the instructions been understood and can I have telephone support?

8 Training Many low vision services and product suppliers provide training and this is an important part of the consideration of a high technology purchase.

Having a friend, carer or relative attend the training with you can be very helpful for backup support.

Question Can I receive training to ensure effective use of a product?

Can I have someone else accompany me? What is the training and is it in the home or is travel involved? How would the training work for me?

9 After sales service Before purchasing any product, especially more costly items, check that you have a clear agreement related to all aspects of after sales service.

Question Is there a clear and written agreement on after sales service and support? Check the warranty and details of after sales service. If a repair is required, especially for larger pieces of technology, will it be collected and delivered back home after servicing? Is this service included in the after sales service warranty?

10 Monitoring You can monitor how things are going with an aid or technology and check it is being used and is meeting your expectations.

Question Does the low vision aid or technology assist me and does it support my independence and my quality of life? Am I utilising my aid and if not, why not and what should I do?

Are there other options available that would better serve my needs? Have my needs changed?

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14 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide

Section 6:

Low Vision Aids and the Basics Before considering any aid or technology there are some basic starter positions to be considered; simple and practical things that can be done to improve the environment and help with low vision. This will be part of your overall low vision assessment. The following gives an outline on some of these basic starting points.

Bigger Bolder Brighter The aim is to make everything bigger, bolder and brighter. Treat these three actions as your first principles.

Lighting Lighting is one of the most important and simple aids. One of the key aspects of any low vision assessment is to check your lighting to ensure you have the right lighting and it is positioned correctly. Some types of light will work better than others depending upon the eye disease.

Having good lighting while reading, writing or undertaking fine work is very important; it can make a huge difference to the ability to see the task being undertaken.

There are a large range of task or portable lamps that can be adjusted to provide appropriate directional lighting. There are also lights with built-in magnifiers designed specifically for reading, writing and other tasks.

 your back to a window to reduce glare Have  direct lighting from behind Use  lighting on a flexible arm (gooseneck lamps) so it can be Use positioned to suit the task  magnification lamp can provide additional lighting for doing close A work or reading  Ensure stairs, bathrooms, kitchens and other areas of activity are well lit  Avoid looking directly into bright lights Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide 15 Glare Control glare as much as possible as it can really make it very difficult with vision loss. Discuss with your eye care professional or your low vision agency the various options including UV shielding sunglasses, fit-overs or clip-ons for use outside and the appropriate options for your vision. They are available in a variety of styles, colours and a range of special lenses which can help reduce glare.

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Contrast Good contrast is important for those with low vision. Contrast is when we create an effect by placing or arranging very different things such as colours, shades and textures next to each other in a way that highlights their differences.

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16 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide Glasses If you have been prescribed glasses, ensure you have regular reviews and

discussions with your eye care professional about your needs including:

 prescription Your  your glasses should be doing for you What  Whether you have the right glasses for specific activities such as glasses for reading and close work and a pair of tinted sunglasses for improved outdoor vision Organisation Getting organised is an important part of maintaining independence. Be well organised, disciplined and practical. Keep important items in the same place.

Think ahead about upcoming events or outings for good planning. Make the home and workplace easy to navigate, uncluttered and well organised.

 a bright coloured wallet, keys holder and glasses case Have  these regularly used important items in a white basket (for Keep contrast) and in the same place, ready for quick collection when going out, and place them there immediately when returning home  a dark felt pen on light materials to label as many objects as Use possible  velcro or tactile dots on commonly used dials, remotes and Use domestic appliances  the restaurant to fax or mail a copy of the menu so you can Ask review it beforehand  possible, obtain forms in advance (eg travel documents, bank If forms) and fill them out in the well-lit comfort of home Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide 17 Orientation and mobility training Orientation and mobility training is a valuable service provided by many low vision agencies. This training aims to increase mobility and help improve independence and confidence. The first step is always to have an assessment which is undertaken by highly qualified and experienced people in the field of orientation and mobility.

Orientation and mobility training is personalised to work on achieving the desired outcome for an individual. It may be that they wish to walk to the local shops confidently, or be able to do the grocery shopping, or travel on trains or planes. For many people with vision loss, training can be undertaken to maximise the use of remaining vision and the other senses to gain more information about the surroundings.

Orientation and mobility trainers will recommend the use of a variety of aids from simple white canes to more technical devices.

For more tips for orientation and mobility and independent travel, refer to the Macular Degeneration Foundation’s publication, Low Vision - A Guide.

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18 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide

Section 7:

Aids and Technologies Low vision aids and technologies range from simple everyday practical aids for daily living and specific aids for low vision right up to existing and adaptive technologies which can be successfully used by those who are blind or are living with low vision. All aids and technologies which are outlined in this section of the Guide are included as they satisfy the two main criteria of maintaining independence and providing quality of life.

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Daily Living Aids Daily living aids provide practical solutions to daily living and working environments and can include talking watches and scales, liquid level indicators and tactile markers, non-slip trays, food plate surrounds to prevent spills, coin sorters to make coins easier to find and money organisers with separate sleeves for different notes.

The huge range of daily living aids and their usefulness for those with low vision should be addressed as part of a low vision assessment. There is a huge array of daily living aids and many are available from low vision service providers. The following are just some examples.

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20 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide


Identification labels which can help with organisation and ease of use


 Plastic tie-on labels  Clothing labels  Iron-on barcode labels and barcode readers  Radio locator tags  Bump-ons, stick-ons or tactile marking pens to mark frequently used button or settings on equipment

Talking aids:

There is a large range of talking aids available including talking scales, timers, clocks, watches, calculators, food thermometers, key chain alarms, key ring voice memo devices, vibrating and beeping liquid level indicators and talking colour detectors. A bar code reader can be used to record the details of an object such as a food tin or DVD, and play back the recording on demand.


A few simple modifications can enable people who have low vision to access

a wide variety of hobbies including:

 Large print, tactile or Braille playing cards  Bingo sets and board games designed for people with low vision (anything from Noughts and Crosses to Monopoly)  Accessible computer games  Specially adapted equipment for photography, drawing and painting  Assistive equipment for sewing and craft work, such as needle threaders, large headed pins, magnetic seam guides and stand magnifier for needlepoint  Special telescopic glasses to help with detailed work such as sewing or model building  Custom made gardening tools

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Low Vision Aids Low vision aids are used to help enlarge print for reading (such as simple hand held magnifiers, magnifiers with built in lighting or large print books) and simple orientation and mobility aids such as canes.

Pocket light:

A pocket flashlight will provide additional lighting to enhance vision, for example in a restaurant to help read the menu, to negotiate a dimly lit environment, to read the right floor number on the elevator or find the toilets.

Large Print Books:

Large print books are usually printed in 16 or 18 point font and this can be a good option if sight allows for this level of print size. A selection may be available from the local library or a low vision service to borrow or purchase. Large print music is available for those who read music.


Reading guides are simple devices that enable better focus when reading either normal or large print. They are simple black cards or sheets with a block cut into them to guide the writer or reader. Reading stands and lap desks with built in lighting can help with correct positioning while reading.


There are a number of writing aids available including large print or tactile address books, diaries,

organisers and notebooks along with:

 Writing frames or simple rail line guides, available in various formats including envelopes guides and signature guides, raised line or bold writing paper  A range of thick felt tip pens 22 Low Vision Aids & Technology – A Guide

Optical Magnifiers:

There is a large range of optical magnifiers in different magnification strengths and sizes. The more powerful magnifiers are smaller, and need to be held close to the eye when being used.

With stronger magnifiers the field of vision is smaller, and may only enable the sight of a part of a word.

The type of magnifier needed will depend on what reading is required.

The following is an overview of the type of magnifiers available:

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