According to the National Health Interview Survey (2011), 21.2 million American adults age 18 and older report experiencing vision loss. The term vision loss refers to individuals who report that they have trouble seeing when wearing glasses or contact lenses or are blind or unable to see at all.
Occupational Therapists – also known as OTs – work to ensure that adults are able to participate in their communities despite visual impairment. OT practitioners are part of coordinated rehabilitation teams that enable adults with visual impairment to continue independent and productive lives. There are several ways to compensate for low vision:
- Increasing lighting
- Increasing contrast
- Tactile cues
Magnification makes the object larger for easier viewing. Options can include hand held magnification, adaptions to glasses, closed circuit televisions, and hand held video magnifiers. In addition, large print books and check ledgers make seeing the information easier.
As many eye diseases restrict the amount of light let into the eye, lighting is one of the most important modifications that can be made in the home. By adding spot lighting or setting up a work space with additional lighting, the person with low vision may be able to continue participation in his daily tasks without assistance.
Contrast also assists in compensation for low vision. Ideas like placing a white plate on a black placemat, milk in a dark coffee cup, and colored strips on the edge of stairs all assist with depth perception and determining the placement of items.
Another option is tactile cues. Most people are familiar with “Braille dots” and the idea is the same. Placing of tactile cues on objects so that a certain area can be located allow the person with low vision to “see” the area with their fingertips. Examples would be marking the number “5” on a phone or the start button on the microwave oven.
Many adaptions can be made to help keep someone with low vision in their home and able to complete their daily “occupations”. I encourage you to discuss these options with your eye healthcare provider.