Low Vision Reading and Writing (almost too many options!)


close up of side view of woman's blue eyeBy MATP Staff Member M. Catherine McAdam

I frequently get asked about options for continuing to read mail, sign checks, and do simple visual tasks for older adults losing vision. The problem is that everyone defines those simple task quite differently, and the number of tools available is almost overwhelming if you can’t break down the tasks you most want to perform.

More Information: reading, writing and vision loss.

Many scan and read options use synthesized speech, so if you have any hearing loss, or simply are just learning the art of listening, this could be problematic. There are many portable magnification options for reading without speech output, but if you also need magnification to write your choices may be much more limited. Some people want to hear and visually scan information and this is possible, but again you need to be specific when seeking this alternative. It’s not just a matter of visual acuity; it’s all about functional vision! This may include issues of glair, color perception, and depth perception.

More information about adult vision loss.

As much as I appreciate the advances in assistive technology, it’s always a good idea to start with some basics, or low tech, first. Most banks now have large print checks, and/or checks with raised lines for help guiding for signatures, or there are a variety of signature guides.  Large print calendars and 2020 pens are often just right for daily task reminders.

Sometimes better lighting is enough to make a work area usable again. There are simple message communication devices for recording quick messages in your own voice.

More information: suppliers for low vision aids

However, we think the hand-on method of exploring options is best!

Three of our demonstration sites for low vision can now loan out some low tech items for short trial periods, and offer additional resource assistance in seeking out a low vision evaluation. Learn more about low vision demonstrations!

There is an abundance of products categorized and described by the American Foundation for the Blind, including videos.

Holding hand held magnifier over text about fly fishingIf you are considering a higher-priced option such as a standalone closed-circuit TV, scanning systems, or the newer face/object recognition products, it’s always good to know if the vendor does demonstrations for these items and/or if they have a 30 day trial period, with the option to easily return an item. This is usually noted on their web sites or in their marketing material.

Unfortunately, because low vision is so different for each person, this is one of those times when what your best friend uses may not work at all for you! Eye strain is fatiguing, and once magnification is past 5x for large volume reading, the “audio” or listening method may work best, and be more efficient. There are many natural voice options available.

View materials and the archived webinar: Reading for All for more information!


What do you think? Let us know!