Low Vision and Blindness Aids for People with Vision Loss from Glaucoma
It can be devastating. You’ve gone to your eye doctor because you notice you can’t see as well as you used to. You tried numerous treatments for your glaucoma, but your vision only got worse, and now your eye doctor tells you that your vision loss is permanent and irreversible. This news may take some getting used to, but your life is not over.
Your ability to adapt to your vision loss and change the way you use your vision can make the difference in your quality of life. Accepting your vision loss is an important first step.
It is important to know that you are not alone. No matter how much or how little vision you have, there are tools you can use to maintain your quality of life. More than one-third (37%) of people with vision loss have mild vision impairment, meaning they have low vision, but they can still perform many activities with low vision aids. Even if you’ve lost your vision completely, you can still find new ways to do the things you want and need to do each day.
There are many low vision and blindness aids for people with glaucoma that can help you maintain your lifestyle and continue to do all the things you used to—independently.
How Glaucoma Affects Your Vision / Vision Loss from Glaucoma
Glaucoma can affect your vision in many ways. Glaucoma shrinks your overall vision so that you lose your peripheral (side) vision, it reduces your ability to adapt from light to dark and dark to light (for example coming out of a movie theater at daytime), it makes you more light sensitive (especially to glare) and it decreases your ability to see contrasts.
Tunnel Vision or Reduced Peripheral Vision
Glaucoma reduces the overall area you can see. People who lose their vision due to glaucoma often report seeing tunnel vision. It is described as looking at the world through a straw or a pinhole. You may not be able to see what is directly below, above or around you on the sides. People with glaucoma can often still see small details, but they lose the ability to see the entire picture.
For people with glaucoma-related vision loss, bigger does not necessarily mean better. People with tunnel vision often have trouble with high levels of magnification because of their lack of side vision and decreased field of view (the amount you can see at one time). This type of vision loss does not benefit from magnifier devices that enlarge or make things bigger. Typically as magnification increases, your field of view decreases and the stability of your image (its shakiness) also increase. This is why people with glaucoma-related vision loss have a hard time with too much magnification; it makes your reduced peripheral vision worse.
If you have glaucoma you need the opposite of magnification; you need minimization (minification), or making the image smaller to increase your field of view (so you can see more at one time). Minimization takes what you can no longer see on the sides and puts those images into your remaining central vision by reducing or shrinking what you see to fit your remaining visual field. Minimizing lets you see more information in a smaller area.
Contrast, Glare and Lighting
People with glaucoma often have trouble with lighting, contrast (seeing different shades of the same color) and glare. Poor lighting makes seeing difficult. Having too much light (sunlight, bright stores), too little light (dimly lit restaurants), or extreme changes in lighting makes it hard for people with vision loss from glaucoma to see clearly.
Glare and Contrast
Glare, caused by bright lights (sun or fluorescent lighting) reduces your ability to see contrast. Glare is the excess light that comes into your eyes (from above or the sides of your vision) away from the area you are focusing on. This extra light makes it harder to see what you are looking at. Having too much light causes glare and can be reduced by wearing hats outdoors or glasses with special lenses.
Using sunglasses with tinted lenses (or contrast-enhancing filters) can help reduce the effects of glare. You may try a few different colored lenses before you find the ones that work best for you. To reduce glare from fluorescent lighting try brown, yellow or amber lenses. To reduce glare from too much sunlight use brown lenses.
It is important to know that not all sunglasses are helpful. Lenses that are too dark can make it harder to see what you are focusing on by dimming your vision while letting in excess light from above and on the sides. Wraparound glasses that block light coming in from above and the sides are best for glaucoma.
When working with computers or electronic devices, use higher contrast settings to help you reduce glare and help you see better. There are also special modes, screens and hoods to help reduce glare. Other simple ways to improve the way you see include covering surfaces that reflect light and cause glare, closing curtains and changing your position so that you have less excess light.
Low Level Lighting and “Dim” Vision
Having too little light reduces your ability to see. Low lights cause “dim” vision where you have to strain your eyes to see clearly. Prevent low lighting effects on your vision by making sure there is enough ambient lighting in dimly lit rooms and by using task lighting. When outside on cloudy, overcast days, you can also try amber or yellow lens glasses to help you see better.
Drastic Changes in Lighting
People with glaucoma have a hard time adjusting their eyes to changes in lighting. Walking into a dark room or out of one into a bright area can temporarily stun the eyes so that you see less. This can be especially dangerous when walking or driving in areas that are light and dark (bridges, tunnels, shady areas). It can make it harder for you to see signs, steps, curbs or changes in terrain. If you have glaucoma, it takes longer for your eyes to adjust to extreme changes in lighting. Take a few extra moments when there is a drastic change in light to let your eyes adjust. You may also consider using a white cane if your low vision affects your mobility.
Low Vision Aids for People with Glaucoma
If you have vision loss, then the sooner you start to use low vision aids the better to help you adjust and to learn new ways to maintain your “normal” lifestyle/activities. Familiarity with low vision aids can also help should your vision loss progressively get worse.
The good news is that there are many different high and low tech products to specifically help vision loss from glaucoma. Here are some products you should consider using right away if vision loss from glaucoma has impaired your quality of life.
Non-electronic Low Tech Low Vision Aids for People with Glaucoma
Not all low vision aids are highly technical or electronic. Some are quite basic, but they can still greatly improve your quality of life. Here is a list of low tech, low vision aids you can use if you have vision loss from glaucoma:
- Increased room lighting and task lighting are the simplest ways to help you to see better if you have glaucoma. Adding desk and reading lamps, as well as goose-neck lamps, can make the difference when performing tasks that require you to see up close. Making sure your environment is well-lit will help you see better overall.
- Filters/colored lenses and glasses reduce glare and help increase contrast.
- Sectoral prisms can increase your field of view, allowing you to see more at once.
- Reverse telescopes reduce what you are looking at (like holding binoculars backwards) so that you can see more at once. When minimizing what you see, consider your overall ability to see small details (like fine print) because these devices reduce the image of what you are looking at.
- High minus lenses/full field microscopes (similar to reverse telescopes), like strong reading glasses, help you see more within your reduced field of view.
- Hand-held Telescopes are held up to one eye to see objects in the distance. These telescopes are helpful for distance viewing in a classroom, at movie theaters, in lectures, for plays or even sporting events.
- Spectacle-mounted telescopes are similar to hand-held telescopes, except they can be used for one or both eyes and are hands-free. They can fit over your glasses or be worn like glasses. They also help you view objects that are far away.
- White canes help you to look ahead towards your destination when walking, while at the same time knowing about differences in ground level and obstacles below that you cannot see due to your reduced peripheral vision. People with vision loss from glaucoma tend to walk more slowly and bump into things more frequently. White canes help you focus on signs, waymarks, cars and pedestrians rather than just looking down for walking safety.
- Raised paint, stickers, tactile cues and permanent marker can be used around the house and on appliances to help you with your everyday chores and activities.
- Large number phones, remotes and calculators make it easier for you to see to make phone calls, operate your entertainment system and for other daily tasks.
- Large print and bold print materials are available to help with many activities of daily living. Today most print materials (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) can be found in large print. You can get large print and bold lined checks to help with banking. There are large print calendars for keeping track of your schedule. You can even get notebooks and pads with bold lines and larger writing areas for you to write notes and keep track of things.
- Typoscope, check writing templates, signature guides or line guides can be useful to help you keep your place while you read, write, sign documents or make out checks. Typoscopes are dark pieces of cardboard or plastic with a window cut into them that can be positioned over text to help you keep your place when reading or writing. Check writing templates and signature guides are like typoscopes with windows specifically designed to help you fill out a check or add your signature to a document. Line guides help you see, read or write along a straight line without losing your place.
- Felt-tipped pens write bolder and are easier to see if you have vision loss.
Higher Technology Low Vision Aids for People with Glaucoma
Technology has made amazing advances in low vision aids to help people with vision loss from glaucoma succeed in doing all the things they used to do. Electronic aids include desktop, portable and handheld magnifiers, computer software, cell phone, tablet and camera apps, text-to-speech OCR software, and digital talking book readers. Below are just a few of the many low vision aids available for people with glaucoma. Also, be sure to call our hotline at 888-211-6933 for a consultation to learn about the hundreds low vision aids from 15 different vendors in one convenient place.
HD CCTV desktop video magnifiers can be a great help if you have lost vision from glaucoma. These magnifiers capture images of what you want to see, and then send them to a screen where you can adjust them for size, lighting, focus and color.
HD CCTV desktop video magnifiers give you a larger field of view so that you can see more at once, and you can adjust magnification levels to see as much or as little as you need. For example, HD CCTV Magnifiers allow you to see multiple words rather than having to read one word at a time.
If you have vision loss from glaucoma, you need low vision devices with the best HD (high definition) capabilities. With glaucoma-related vision loss you need to see small, not big. You need to minimize the size of what you are looking at so that it fits to what you are able to see (as if you are looking through a straw). The smaller you make the image, the clearer it needs to be. This is why HD is so important, because it helps you keep a clear image no matter how small you reduce the size.
With HD even low power is still very sharp. This means that you can see small letters and details and maintain that crystal clear image no matter how small you minimize the letters. If you have an older CCTV that has weak or low power without HD, then it is time to consider an upgrade to a newer HD model.
HD CCTVs are a great option for people with vision loss from glaucoma because they give you no distortion of the sides of the image (peripheral distortion) because the image is projected electronically on a screen so you can focus on any area that you want, all with equal clarity. There is no distortion to the sides of anything you magnify because it is an electronic image. Many CCTV magnifiers also offer guide lines and the ability to freeze the image so that you can focus on areas that you want to see.
CCTV video magnifiers s allow you to adjust magnification to best suit your vision loss. They also come with multiple contrast and color modes to reduce glare and increase contrast. This helps you to read and see things better while reducing eye strain. They also often have built in lighting to help with tricky lighting situations.
DaVinci Pro has super-sharp resolution and is easy to use. You don’t need to be a technical expert to use DaVinci Pro; simply turn it on and immediately start enjoying its features. However, if you are computer savvy, DaVinci Pro is also fully adjustable for a variety of advanced modes and settings.
DaVinci Pro’s 3-in-1 Full HD camera gives the clearest, sharpest image of all of Enhanced Vision’s products. This camera can be twisted so you can see near, far and even a mirror image for self-viewing.
DaVinci Pro also has a simple full-page Text-To-Speech OCR system built inside, with the highest resolution 13 mega-pixel text-to-speech camera, for very accurate and precise Text-to-Speech translation. This is a huge benefit if you want to read a lot of print. Simply push a button to turn on the text-to-speech feature and sit back and give your eyes a break while DaVinci Pro reads books, newsletters, magazines, etc.
DaVinci Pro is a great product if you have vision loss from glaucoma because it features a large field of view allowing you to see more on the screen. It also comes with 28 viewing modes to optimize contrast and brightness.
TOPAZ XL HD provides high-definition magnification with a sharp image and crisp text that allows for low magnification levels to fit more text on the screen for faster reading and better comprehension with less fatigue. TOPAZ XL HD uses a high definition, auto-focus camera for lower magnification so you can maximize the amount of information displayed on the screen.
- Directed LED lighting for a bright work surface without glare
- Freeze Frame, adjustable Masks and Lines, Focus Lock and Find feature
- Accurate colors and even illumination with no glare to minimize fatigue
- 33 screen color modes including high-contrast full color, true-color, and grayscale to fit your viewing needs
- Brightly-colored control buttons
- One-touch Freeze Frame button to freeze images and stop movement for close inspection of small objects or to keep your place
- Focus Lock to maintain focus while writing
- Find feature to quickly zoom out, find your place, and zoom back in to read
- Reading Lines, Shades, and Masks to reduce eye fatigue and focus on what you want to read
The Merlin Elite is a high performance desktop video magnifier CCTV, featuring both a High Definition (HD) image quality, plus an integrated built-in text-to-speech OCR reader. This simple to use low vision device offers brilliant HD true color and contrast providing a beautiful, crystal clear picture. Merlin Elite’s unique product design provides a wide field of viewable text on the monitor. Merlin Elite is so simple even seniors with no technical experience can just plug it in and begin using it.
- Sony® HD camera displays crystal clear images in vibrant color and contrast
- High resolution LCD provides maximum levels of picture detail for a clear, bold display
- Wide 8.5” field of view lets you see more of your document without having to move it left or right, see much more on screen, reducing back and forth movement of magnified text, increasing reading speed, reducing fatigue, increasing personal productivity, and most of all, increasing feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.
- Integrated OCR ‘text-to-speech’ system to easily read text in books, magazines, newsletters, etc.
- 28 viewing modes to optimize contrast and brightness
- LED lighting for truer HD picture quality
- Connects to iPad and iDevices for accessible viewing of email, internet, Skype, Facebook, FaceTime, etc.
- Horizontal line markers and windowing provide a reference point when reading and lets you isolate the text you are viewing for easier legibility.
Portable HD CCTV Video Magnifiers give you all the benefits of desktop video magnifiers with complete portability so you can use them when and where you are.
ONYX Deskset HD is a portable HD CCTV video magnifier that features a 3-in-1 flexible, high definition camera and monitor all in one self-contained unit you can bring with anywhere.
- Auto focus feature means you can position your camera on anything (up close to across the room) and the camera will automatically self-adjust and focus itself for the clearest view possible.
- Focus lock lets you keep your camera focused on one area while you perform tasks with movement (such as writing, crafts, tool projects, self-hygiene and maintenance, etc.
- Automatically remembers previous settings for each view and will return to them so you don’t need to readjust and reset your settings repetitively.
- Find Function lets you quickly and easily target distant objects or even use to zoom out to find your place on a document and then zoom back in to continue reading/viewing where you left off.
- Freeze Frame feature lets you hold an image your screen to keep your place or for a closer look at small objects.
- 6 factory default modes and 27 extra color modes (33 total high-contrast color modes) for easier viewing without eye strain.
- Reading Lines added horizontal or vertical lines to your screen to help you keep your place.
- Shading Masks and Full Masking help you focus in on a screen area while reducing glare from bright backgrounds.
Acrobat HD Mini Ultra
Acrobat HD Mini Ultra is a great portable CCTV video magnifier that comes with full high definition so you can experience vivid colors and contrast, giving you a beautiful crystal clear picture and vibrant display. Its large field of view allows you to see more on the screen, reducing back and forth movement of magnified text, increasing reading and productivity speed while reducing eye strain and fatigue.
Acrobat HD Mini Ultra has a small footprint and lightweight design (just 12.2 pounds) that provides true portability
Acrobat HD Mini Ultra is easy to set up and ready to use, just take it out of its optional rolling case and you are ready to magnify in seconds.
- Sony High Definition Auto Focus camera allows objects to be magnified at any distance
- 28 available viewing modes to optimize contrast and brightness
- Adjustable reading lines and object locator
- Built-in handle and optional rolling carrying case for easy transport
- Camera settings saved for each view
- Battery operated with 6 hours of continuous usage
The ONYX Portable HD is a lightweight (weighs 4.3 lbs.), portable video magnifier for reading, writing, and viewing magnified images at any distance. The 3-in-1 flexible camera provides document reading, distance viewing, and self-viewing modes. Auto-focus makes items clear, whether under the camera or in the distance. ONYX Portable HD has clear HD image quality, wide magnification ranges, configurable color modes, and adjustable reference lines and masks.
- 33 color modes including high-contrast, true-color, and grayscale
- Adjustable Reading Lines, Masks, and Shades
- Freeze Frame allows you to freeze the image on screen for close inspection of small objects or to keep your place
- Focus Lock to keep the camera focused on the paper while writing
- Automatically remembers your last settings in every view
- Find feature to quickly zoom out to find your place and then zoom back in
There are many apps that are specifically designed to help you with vision loss if you have glaucoma. These apps allow you to use the built-in camera on your smartphone and/or tablet to light and magnify what you want to see. Apps are available that let you adjust lighting, and enlarge images and font sizes. There are even text-to-speech apps that read content out loud for you. Some smartphones and tablets voice programs for emails, calendar scheduling, directions, news and weather. There are even apps to help you scan and identify currency. New England Low Vison and Blindness offers training on Apps, iPads, iPhones, Tablets and other Devices for People with Vision Loss. To learn more, call 888-211-6933.
Text-to-Speech Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems scan the text on your computer screen and convert it to speech that is read out loud to you. These systems will not only read aloud the text, but they can also audibly tell you the headlines, navigations, menus, hyperlinks and even your cursor position.
JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is the perfect screen reading software for anyone with vision loss that prevents them from seeing their computer screen or using a mouse. JAWS is known as the world’s most popular screen reading software because no other software comes close to its ease of use, accessibility and wide acceptance for any computer environment, program or application. JAWS provides speech and Braille output for the most popular computer applications on your PC.
JAWS Screen Reader Software converts text, images, navigation (you name it) into speech, and enables you to access Microsoft Windows systems and Windows-based applications. JAWS includes a variety of voices for over 30 different languages.
Window-Eyes — Screen Reader Software
Window-Eyes 9 screen reading software is the most stable, secure and customizable screen reader available that offers support for all video systems. Window-Eyes works with many applications “out of the box” with little or no configuration required. Window-Eyes has beginner, intermediate and advanced menu levels to support you no matter what your technical ability. Window-Eyes reads all the text on your screen; it even reads the text under your mouse pointer as it moves.
Kurzweil 1000 makes printed or electronic text accessible because it speaks text aloud in a variety of natural-sounding voices that can be modified to individual preferences. Kurzweil 1000 has features for note taking, summarizing content, and outlining text. It also enables you to write and edit documents and to complete simple forms independently.
WYNN Wizard is a scanning and reading software. It includes optical character recognition (OCR), the ability to scan printed pages and convert them into electronic text. Speech synthesis enables this scanned text to be read aloud. Additionally, WYNN Wizard can read word processing documents, Adobe Acrobat PDF files, text files and text from the Internet.
Handheld HD magnifiers can be a great solution to your glaucoma-related vision loss when you are on the go. With these magnifiers you can adjust the size and often the color and contrast of what you are looking at. They come with LED lighting to help you see clearly. These are particularly useful for reading text on the go, such as signs, price tags, food and medication labels, menus, etc. Some even come with stands and handles to help you read more comfortably.
The Pebble HD with Stand is a great option for people with glaucoma who want to read again. Pebble HD with Stand has a special ergonomic stand that is designed to sit directly on the page (of your book, magazine, newspaper, etc.) at a comfortable reading angle and provides a more stable image than handheld magnifiers.
Pebble HD with Stand has:
- HD capabilities to give you a clear image no matter how you adjust for size
- A built-in light to help with brightness as well as numerous settings to increase contrast. Illumination gives you more flexibility no matter where you are and how bright (grocery store) or dimly lit (restaurant) the room is
- A small and portable design that fits in your purse or pocket so you can take it with you to read all sorts of things on the go, such as price tags, menus, labels, signs. Weighing just 7.2 ounces, the Pebble HD is considered to be the lightest on the market for the 4.3” monitor size
- Expanded magnification ranges to give you extended zoom, magnification and field of view
- Easy-to-use large tactile buttons with bump dots in two color choices
- Adjustable brightness with lights on/off feature
- 28 available color select modes
RUBY XL HD gives you crystal clear, high-definition magnification that is easy to use on the go. RUBY XL HD’s fold-out handle, with two adjustable positions for a comfortable grip, make this easy to use, slim and lightweight magnifier the perfect portable companion. When trying to read material with a lot of content, you can add an adjustable reading line or masks to help track the text.
- 5-inch widescreen LCD brings out even the finest details
- lightweight and portable design weighs just 10.5 ounces
- 20 high-contrast color viewing modes let you adjust text to be easy on your eyes
- Built-in reading stand
- Freeze Frame with adjustable magnification
- Easy flip-out handle
Large Letter or Large Print Keyboards
Large print keyboards are great for anyone with low vision, especially if you have glaucoma. Large print keyboards make it easier for you to see the keys on your keyboard so that you can continue to use your computer without straining your eyes.
If you struggle to see the lettering on your keyboard, then the ZoomText Large-Print Keyboard is great for you. The ZoomText Keyboard features 36-point keycap labels and ultra-high-contrast color schemes—“White on Black” and “Black on Yellow”—that are easy to see (even in low-light conditions). It has two USB ports (one on each side) to make it easy for you to plug-in. If you use ZoomText software, the ZoomText Keyboard also provides quick access to many ZoomText Fusion software features.
To be able to read again is the number one goal of people with vision loss, especially for people with glaucoma. When all other options have been unsuccessful, Digital Talking Book Readers are a great way for you to still enjoy your favorite, books, magazines and newspapers. Digital talking books are available from most libraries and allow you to listen to your favorite books and print materials as read by the author, actors or other voice talents.
The Victor Reader Stream digital talking book reader puts the latest novels, magazines, your favorite music, audio-described films, texts and your own voice recordings, all in the palm of your hand for hours of listening pleasure.
Mostly a digital talking book reader, this device also has the ability to record short notes and entire lectures. Material is recorded on a SD card or to the device’s internal memory. Download books directly from BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download), BookShare and magazines and newspapers from NFB News Line. Podcasts can be downloaded, recorded music can be enjoyed, even listen to internet radio.
Victor Reader Stream digital talking book reader is about the size of a package of large print playing cards. Its telephone-style keypad has large, easy to use keys that give you total control over what you listen to. Move by page or chapter and mark passages you want to reread.
- Automatically download software upgrades, and your favorite podcasts as they come available—and have another book, article or podcast playing while downloads are happening in the background
- Listen to internet radio
- Record short notes and entire lectures
- Enjoy recorded music can also be enjoyed
A consultation with a low vision expert can help you find the best treatment, practical aids, adaptive strategies, training and low vision technology to help you maintain or improve your quality of life. Low vison experts can help you find the perfect low vision aid to meet your needs without wasting money on low vison equipment that may not be a good fit for you. A low vision expert will assess your remaining vision, your wants and needs and then make recommendations on how you can maximize your remaining vision. A consultation with a low vision expert can help you maintain the activities that you enjoy doing most using new methods and low vision aids.
Not everyone has the same level of experience with low vision aids. That’s where our low vision and blindness training services provide the greatest benefit. Our flexible, caring and customized training is designed around your individual needs, no matter what your level of experience. Our training services cover products that we sell as well as other products in the marketplace.
When you first learn that your vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible, it can be overwhelming. The good news is that there are many products that can help you maintain your quality of life.
Call us today at 888-211-6933 to learn about all the different low vision aids for glaucoma from 15 different vendors in one easy phone call consultation.
The best way to protect your vision from glaucoma is to get your eyes checked. January is a great time to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam because it is Glaucoma Awareness Month. If you already have vision loss from glaucoma, there are many amazing low vision aids and blindness aids to help you live a full, independent life.
As part of our work to increase awareness about glaucoma and glaucoma-related vision loss and living with glaucoma we have written a 4-part Guide to Glaucoma. Please share this Guide with friends and remember to get your eyes tested for glaucoma annually. If you do have glaucoma-related vision loss, call us at 888-211-6933 to learn how low vision aids can help you.
In Part One of our series “A Guide to Glaucoma” we discussed what glaucoma is, the warning signs and symptoms of glaucoma and the stages of glaucoma related vision loss.
In Part Two of our Glaucoma Guide we discussed who’s at risk for developing glaucoma and how to prevent vision loss from this disease.
In Part Three of our Glaucoma Guide we discussed tests and treatments for glaucoma.
Please share this important information with your friends and family, encourage everyone you know to get a comprehensive eye exam annually.