Garrison Keeler said, “A book is a gift you can open again and again” but for someone with low vision, reading can be a challenge without the right tools. There is a large selection of devices that can help people read with low vision. Some are “optical”, meaning that they are glass lenses such as magnifying glasses and telescopes. Others are “electronic”, meaning they use video and projection type principles to expand and clarify the text. Optical devices offer limited magnification and are sensitive to lighting conditions and have a small field of view. Electronic devices have integral lighting, greater and adjustable magnification, and provide color contrast.
Below are 3 tips for reading with low vision.
- Magnification: Magnification is important when vision loss occurs in the central part of the vision. This is the case with Macular Degeneration. The macular is the part of the retina that allows someone to see smaller letters. Magnification on text allows the user to compensate for vision loss by allowing you to see more of the surrounding area with the healthier part of the retina and create a better visual image of the text. Magnifiers are available in either optical or electronic versions. The optical magnifier has a set magnification while the electronic magnifier allows for the user to vary the magnification level as needed.
- Lighting: Lighting can play an important part in being able to easily read. Proper light can help by increasing the brightness of the image or text being viewed. It can also help increase the contrast between the text and the background. Be sure to have adequate overhead and task lighting when reading. Adjustable lamps placed to the side are good for reducing glare. Many optical and electronic magnifiers have built-in light sources to help illuminate text.
- Contrast: Contrast is very important because determines how well someone with low vision perceives text. If the contrast between the text and the background is not defined well, it can make it hard for someone to read. Those with low vision tend to have lower contrast sensitivity. Reading a newspaper or website with a low contrast such as light grey letters on a white or off-white background can be difficult. While black lettering on a stark white background would be clearer. Electronic magnifiers, both handheld and desktop versions, offer different color combinations such as black text on white, black on yellow, and white lettering on a black background. Try different combinations to find the one that works best for your eye condition