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Vision Problems: Living With Poor Eyesight

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To keep doing the things you enjoy, you will want to make a few changes to your lifestyle. The changes you need to make depend on how much vision you have lost, what kinds of activities you like to do, and your lifestyle. Making changes may seem difficult and time-consuming. Be patient. You can keep your independence and continue the activities you enjoy.

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Find your vision strengths. Adapting your lifestyle to poor eyesight is sometimes challenging and can involve changes in the way you do the activities you enjoy. But if you use your vision strengths, you can continue to do most—if not all—of your usual activities.

Find your vision strengths. Contact your local or state organization for the visually impaired for a low-vision evaluation to find out the limitations of your eyesight and what changes might help you take advantage of your strengths. A low-vision specialist can help you train your eyes to look around your blind spots. For example, if you have lost central vision, you can train your eyes to look at objects from your outer vision areas.

There are also many vision aids that are specially made for people who have poor eyesight, such as magnifiers that enlarge printed materials and special papers with bold lines for writing checks. A good low-vision evaluation can help you find out which vision aids would be most helpful for you.

Test Your Knowledge

Decide whether the following is true or false to see whether you understand what it means to adapt to poor eyesight.

Having a low-vision evaluation will help identify my vision strengths.


Poor eyesight should not prevent you from having a full and active life. By adapting to your poor eyesight, you can continue to work, live independently, and do the leisure and recreational activities that you enjoy. The more vision adaptations and enhancing skills you learn and use, the more independent and active you can be.

Test Your Knowledge

Decide whether the following statement is true or false to see whether you understand why you need to adapt to your poor eyesight.

If I enhance my remaining vision, I will be less dependent on other people.


Some simple changes can help you use your remaining vision to its full potential and allow you to live as independently as possible. The keys to success are as follows.

Make simple changes

  • Make a list of things you have trouble doing. Use the checklist for identifying low-vision aids for daily activitiesClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?).
  • Make simple accommodations at home that will help you manage your household chores and care for your personal needs.
  • Use low-vision aids and adaptive technology, such as lenses and other devices, to enhance your remaining vision.

These are a few ideas on how to make living with low vision easier and safer. Low-vision rehabilitation specialists can provide you with detailed information and training on managing your household and other activities that can be more challenging when you have reduced vision.

Use lighting

  • Position lighting so that it is aimed at what you want to see and aimed away from your eyes.
  • Add table and floor lamps in areas where extra lighting is often needed.
  • Use window coverings that let you to adjust the level of natural lighting.
  • Make sure potentially hazardous areas such as entries and stairways are well lit.

Use contrast

Contrast makes use of your eyes' ability to distinguish objects and their surroundings based on differences in brightness or color, rather than shape or location. If you have low vision, you may need more light to be able to distinguish objects with similar brightness or color (low contrast).

  • Place light objects against a dark background or dark objects against a light background. For example, if you have white or light-colored walls, use dark switch plates to mark the location of light switches. You can also use lighted switches that glow softly and are easier to identify.
  • You can also use paint in a contrasting color to mark electrical outlets, oven dials, thermostats, and other items so that they are easier to find and use.
  • Paint door frames in a contrasting color; if the door is light, paint the frame with a dark color. Use dark doorknobs on light-colored doors.
  • In your bathroom, use contrasting color for items such as cups, soap dishes, and even the soap.

Label and mark

  • Use high contrast, such as bold black lettering on a white background, when making labels, signs, and other markings. Post signs at eye level.
  • Label any medicines you take so that they are easily and clearly identified. Use colored, high-contrast labels to "color code" medicines, spices, foods, and other items.
  • Mark the positions of the temperature settings you use most frequently on your stove and oven controls, as well as the "on" and "off" positions. Some appliances have extra-large, high-contrast markings and indicators.
  • In the kitchen and bathroom, mark the settings for the faucets that provide the right water temperature. To prevent overfilling a sink or bathtub, mark the water level you want with a strip of waterproof tape or a waterproof marker.
  • Mark the areas around stairways and ramps with paint or tape, preferably with a high-contrast color such as dark tape on light carpeting.

Avoid potential hazards

  • Replace or remove any worn carpeting or floor coverings. If you use throw rugs or area rugs, tape them down or remove them.
  • Avoid smooth floor coverings. And do not wax kitchen and bathroom floors. Use nonskid, nonglare cleaners on smooth floors.
  • Remove electrical cords from areas where you need to walk. If this is not possible, tape them down so you will not trip over them.
  • Arrange your furniture so that it does not stick out into areas where you need to walk. Keep chairs pushed in under tables and desks when not in use. Keep desk, cabinet, and bureau drawers closed.
  • Keep doors either fully opened or fully closed, but not halfway. Keep doors that stick out into a room or hallway closed.
  • Make sure the handrails on stairways and ramps extend beyond the top and bottom steps, because people often stumble when they miss a step at the top or bottom of an incline. Consider installing handrails in other potentially hazardous areas.

Low-vision aids

Low-vision aids are special lenses or electronic systems that make images appear larger. They may include:

  • Magnifying lenses. These may range from simple handheld lenses for reading to special eyeglasses or magnifiers much like the lenses that jewelers use. Some magnifying lenses have a built-in light for better illumination. And some are mounted on stands so your hands are free. For distance vision, small handheld telescopes or lenses that clip onto your eyeglasses may be used.
  • Video enlargement systems. These are electronic systems that include a closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) or video camera that can be used to transmit an enlarged image of print, pictures, or other items onto a screen where it is easier for you to see. These systems can also sometimes adjust brightness and contrast to make the enlarged image easier to see. Some video systems have both the camera and screens built into a head-mounted device that looks like a pair of large goggles, allowing a person to move around while using them.
  • Computer display and enlargement systems. Large screens and software that enlarge print, pictures, and other visual information are available. Computers also allow you to alter brightness, contrast, color, and other parts of the display to make it easier to see what is on the screen. Computers are sometimes used with video enlargement systems.

Adaptive technology

Adaptive technology is used in devices or products that may not necessarily help you see better but can make life easier and safer. Many are designed to help you perform common tasks that may be more difficult when you have impaired vision. Examples of adaptive technology include:

  • Large-print items. Books, newspapers, magazines, medicine labels, bank checks, and playing cards are often available in large print. Many people with low vision also use recordings of books and other printed materials.
  • Special papers and writing aids. These may be something as simple as paper with extra-bold lines that help you write information on checks in the proper spaces.
  • Adaptive appliances. These are common household items that have been adapted for use by people with low vision. Examples are clocks and watches with electronic voices that announce the time or clocks, telephones, and calculators with extra-large buttons and numerals that can be seen more easily. Kitchen appliances such as ovens with similar features are also available.
  • Speech software for computer systems. Special software allows computers to recognize spoken commands or to convert dictated speech into text. Speech synthesis software allows computers to speak text and read documents.
  • Optical character recognition (OCR) software. OCR systems allow you to scan documents and convert them into computer text that can be enlarged for display or read aloud by a speech synthesis program.

Test Your Knowledge

Decide whether the following statement is true or false to see whether you understand how you can adapt and enhance your remaining vision to care for yourself and continue to do the activities you enjoy.

There are many simple changes I can make that will help me take care of myself and do my household chores safely.


Now that you have read this information, you are ready to find ways to enhance your eyesight so that you can continue to care for yourself.

Talk with your eye specialist

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your eye specialist. You may want to mark areas or make notes in the margins of the pages where you have questions.

If you need help finding vision aids, talk with your eye specialist about having a low-vision evaluation by a low-vision specialist. A low-vision specialist can help you determine which aids will enhance your remaining vision.

If you would like more information about low-vision enhancements, the following resources are available:


American Foundation for the Blind
11 Penn Plaza
Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 1-800-AFB-LINE (1-800-232-5463)
(212) 502-7600
Fax: (212) 502-7777
Web Address:

The American Foundation for the Blind is dedicated to addressing the critical issues of literacy, independent living, employment, and access through technology for the 10 million Americans who are blind or visually impaired.

Lighthouse International
111 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022-1202
Phone: (212) 821-9200
Fax: (212) 821-9707
TDD: (212) 821-9713 (TTY)
Web Address:

Lighthouse International is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping people of all ages to overcome vision impairment through vision rehabilitation services, education, research, and advocacy.

National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
Information Office
31 Center Drive MSC 2510
Bethesda, MD 20892-2510
Phone: (301) 496-5248
Web Address:

As part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the National Eye Institute provides information on eye diseases and vision research. Publications are available to the public at no charge. The Web site includes links to various information resources.

Prevent Blindness America
211 West Wacker Drive
Suite 1700
Chicago, IL 60606
Phone: 1-800-331-2020
Web Address:

Prevent Blindness America assists the visually impaired and provides consumer information on vision problems and vision aids. Its website has information about eye health and safety for children and adults. Many states have local affiliates.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerCarol L. Karp, MD - Ophthalmology
Specialist Medical ReviewerChristopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last RevisedMarch 22, 2011

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