Considering Facts About Low Vision

Updated on August 14, 2017
Tim Truzy info4u profile image

I've worked extensively with individuals with vision loss. I hold an M.S. degree in rehabilitation counseling from East Carolina University.

What Is Low Vision?

Although understood to be the most common visual impairment, confusion persists over what it means to have low vision. Most professionals recognize the condition of low vision as any loss of eyesight which significantly impacts activities of daily living. In addition, the visual impairment which exists because of the vision loss cannot be corrected to 20/20 eyesight through surgery, contacts, medications, or eye glasses. The vision loss is permanent. Millions of people globally have low vision, but there are ways they can maintain some level of independence regardless of the cause of the vision loss.

The causes of low vision are numerous. Injuries can reduce a person’s eyesight. Factors such as birth defects can contribute to low vision. Genetic influences can determine if a person will have low vision later in life. However, low vision is not related to normal aging of the eyes.

An examination by a trained eye doctor can help an individual determine if he/she has low vision. The eye doctor can also refer people to professionals to aid with the adjustment to the loss of vision. As a rehabilitation counselor, I assisted people with low vision in finding or maintaining employment. Furthermore, I worked with students who had low vision, and these individuals want to succeed in life for the most part. Below are some examples of the causes of low vision:

Some Causes of Low Vision

•Diabetic Retinopathy – This disease impacts the retina, a light sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Damage to the retina occurs because of high blood sugar levels. Diabetic retinopathy is the main cause of vision loss for people with diabetes.

•Glaucoma – This disease occurs when fluid pressure builds up in the eye, resulting in damage to the optic nerve. Usually, vision loss is gradual. The condition can result in a total loss of vision if not treated.

•Retinitis Pigmentosa - This disease causes progressive loss of vision in cells of the retina. Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is inherited, but it is rare. The retina degenerates with total blindness resulting over time. Treatments are being developed, but the first sign of RP is night-blindness.

•Macular Degeneration – This eye condition occurs primarily in older people. It impacts the central part of the retina, which is called the macula. The eye condition is degenerative, causing loss of central vision or visual distortions for the affected individual.

This talking book player plays books recorded on special cartridges. This device allows people to listen to books rather than use their vision to read them.
This talking book player plays books recorded on special cartridges. This device allows people to listen to books rather than use their vision to read them. | Source

Learning to Live With Low Vision

Living with low vision requires adjusting to doing many tasks in a different manner. Some adjustment factors include: age of the individual at the onset of the visual impairment, extent of vision loss, and the type of visual impairment. These and other factors are considered by specialists who work with individuals with visual impairments. Rehabilitation plans, which could include educational needs, are then implemented by the specialists. They particularly look at the individual’s ability to do various tasks of daily living (shopping, reading, travel, etc.)Solutions are put into place once they are found to work.

One area the specialists examine is the person’s ability to read printed materials. Many people with low vision read large print, with or without magnification. Others may use large print and Braille. Still, some individuals with low vision prefer a combination of audio books, large print, and Braille to read. The choice is individualized based on the person’s needs and the task.

For people with low vision who use magnification to read and write, there are handheld and electronic devices available. An eye doctor must prescribe optical aids for people with low vision. These optical devices may be mini-telescopes, monocular devices, or special lenses. But there are technological options as well.

For writing and reading, electronic devices such as a VisoBook, is something a person with low vision may use. Produced by the nonprofit, the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), this machine is portable. (A link to the American Printing House for The Blind is below.) Others may prefer to listen to text occasionally. The National Library Service provides individuals with visual impairments and other disabilities digital book recorders (shown in the photo) and books for free. (A link to the National Library Service is provided below.) By no means are these the only options available to people with low vision, but they give some starting point for accessing printed materials.

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Sources Used

APH – About Us. Retrieved August 9, 2017, from:

Low Vision Resources | Kellogg Eye Center | Michigan Medicine. Retrieved August 9, 2017 from:

NLS at the Library of Congress - National Library Service for the Blind. Retrieved August 10, 2017 from:

What Is Low Vision? - American Academy of Ophthalmology. Retrieved August 10, 2017 from:


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