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Best Gifts for Someone With Vision Problems

Updated on December 1, 2016
meloncauli profile image

Meloncauli is an ex-nurse and anxiety management therapist. She hopes everyone can take something away from her articles.

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As I get older, I increasingly appreciate just how much failing eyesight affects our everyday lives. It can be so irritating when you simply can't see to thread a needle or read instructions when you buy something new (why do they print instructions so small?).

Without glasses my eyesight is poor, and I depend on them enormously for everyday living. This kind of problem affects so many people, from the young to the elderly, and some of us simply don't know that there are aids to compensate for our poor eyesight.

Many of us will have failing eyesight as we get older, but people with eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy have an even harder time as their disease progresses. Blindness will occur in some cases, but for all people with eyesight problems, blurriness is one of the major symptoms. Whether we lose central vision, peripheral vision or just have plain old bad eyesight, we tend to stop doing certain things in life because we just can't see well enough!

Blurriness is common with failing eyesight
Blurriness is common with failing eyesight | Source

What do you buy someone who has failing eyesight? There is little point in buying gifts for someone if they unable to make use of them, because their eyesight is simply not good enough. Using my personal experience in facing this dilemma within my family, I would like to suggest a few practical solutions that would make very good gifts for those with any sight problems.

Computer Use and Low Vision

When my father was diagnosed with macular degeneration some years ago, I started noticing how many things he stopped doing because of his failing eyesight. He lives alone, is housebound with COPD and is reliant on family and care workers for his everyday needs.

As his vision deteriorated he had a hard time explaining to people that he simply couldn't see very well. He grew impatient and frustrated. He stopped using the Internet which was particularly sad as he got so much pleasure from it. I did some searching on the Internet and found that there are some computers specifically designed for those with low vision. There are also talking computers for the blind.

Buying a whole new computer package was extremely costly because of the the extra benefits of personal software design, very large monitor and keyboard, but my father did get to use the computer for a few more years. Now I realize that just buying a monitor screen magnifier, and specially designed high vision keyboard, could be helpful to so many people. It must be noted however, that some screen magnification can often cause the need to scroll across the screen more than usual to see full expanse of the page being viewed.

For those who are blind, you can buy Braille sticker sheets that go over the keys of a keyboard. Low vision sufferers will probably benefit from text to speech software that can read emails, and any other text on the computer. The TextAloud version above has an Internet Explorer toolbar plug-in for reading web pages.

Reading Aids for Low Vision

Carson ezRead Visual Aide Magnifier (DR-200)
Carson ezRead Visual Aide Magnifier (DR-200)

Place the Ezread over any print you want to read and it will be magnified on your TV screen. The bigger the TV, the bigger the print.

 

Reading and Low Vision

My father always had a book on his bedside table for as long as I can remember, but sadly his reading ground to a halt because of his eye disease. He already had a handheld magnifier but it wasn't terribly powerful, so he switched to talking books. A CD player and a talking book is a great gift for anyone with poor vision. You can also buy a strip ruler type magnifier that you place on the line of text in a book you are reading, and these can make wonderful practical gifts.

Recently I saw a device on Amazon called the Ezread magnifier and I aim to get one for my father soon. You simply place the Ezread (like a large mouse), over whatever you want to read, and read it back on your television. This has great reviews and seems like a very practical gift to buy for someone with vision problems. Large print calendars also make great gifts for those who have low vision, as do good strong reading lamps. It must be noted though that some people with eye disease have glare problems, and this should be taken into consideration.

Note: if you are in the UK you can look into getting the local newspaper delivered to a partially sighted person in audio format. You should consult your local disability office for details or ring social services who may be able to help you.

Talking Gifts for Low Vision

I have already mentioned that a disc player and talking books make great gifts, but there are other talking products that my father has found very useful too.

Suddenly he could not tell the time by looking at his wristwatch, and he had a growing problem with his wall clock. How frustrating it must be to not know what time of day it is! I bought him a talking cube clock, a very large numeral wall clock and he now has a talking wristwatch. At the press of a button he knows the correct time and date now. A talking alarm clock is very useful and you can even buy talking clocks that tell you the temperature too!

Imagine trying to measure something with a tape measure and you just can't see the exact measurement clearly, or taking your temperature with a thermometer and not being able to actually read it! There are talking substitutes for these, and many other simple everyday things that we all take for granted.

My father started having difficulty seeing the writing on packets and tins in his food cupboard. He couldn't see the "use by" dates on food without his magnifier. This was clearly somewhat of a worry to me, and I do encourage him to use his magnifier more. I bought him something called a "talking tin lid" which is very useful. He has ten seconds of talk time to record whatever he wants, and then places it over a can. In this way he can easily identify what is in the tin. Of course sell by dates could also be recorded.

Taking kitchen scales and calculators are also a good practical gifts for anyone with visual impairment.

Telephones and Low Vision

My father was having difficulty seeing the numbers on his telephone and using his cell phone became impossible for him. The telephone is very important in communicating with family and friends and something else we all take for granted. Imagine having a mobile phone and not being able to call or send an sms to someone because your eyesight will not allow it. Buying big button telephones and cell/mobile phones is a great idea for those who are visually impaired.

Miscellaneous Low-Vision Aids

People tend to use their hands more to feel things when they can not see so well, more so with severe eyesight deterioration. You can buy raised stickers or bumps to place on objects. If the person with low vision does not have a color issue, these stickers can be color coded to aid in identification. Mobility shops should sell these visual aids.

My father can not see the writing on his DVD player for example. I color-coded the buttons with traffic light colors. So he has red for stop, yellow (amber) for pause and green for play.

A digital photo frame can be helpful for those with failing eyesight
A digital photo frame can be helpful for those with failing eyesight | Source

More Ideas for Low-Vision Aids

Here are some more ideas for low-vision aids to give as gifts:

  • Writing or signature guide - placed on paper these can guide a person where to write
  • Playing cards with large bold symbols
  • Low vision writing paper which is usually yellow with bold black lines
  • Digital bathroom scales with large bold numbers
  • Low vision envelopes that already have bold printed black lines on them for writing an address
  • Magnifiers that can be hung around the neck leaving the hands free
  • Talking calculators
  • Talking money identifier/bill reader - helps to count and pay money
  • Digital photo viewer - when photos are simply too small to see

I wasted money on some gifts that my father simply couldn't use, but I hope this article helps to give you some ideas so that you don't make the same mistakes. Buying practical gifts for someone who has low vision can help them keep some of their independence, too.

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    • meloncauli profile image
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      meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comment Linda! I would love laser eye surgery and it's perhaps something I will look to in the not too distant future. I already get frustrated if I misplace my glasses! :)

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      These are great ideas to help those with vision issues. I've had vision problems for most of my life. I had Lasik about 7 years ago and it improved my life dramatically, but we never know what we'll be faced with as we age. It is good to know these aids are available!

    • meloncauli profile image
      Author

      meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

      Thanks billybuc! I hope mine stabilizes! Seeing someone lose their sight slowly is very sad.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Really interesting! I have worn glasses since I was five years old, but luckily, my eyesight stabilized about ten years ago, so it isn't getting worse. Great suggestions here!