Visual Impairment refers to the decreased ability of a person’s sight to such a large degree that it cannot be fixed by conventional means such as glasses and lenses. The term blind people or blindness refers to a complete or nearly complete vision loss. The disturbance in the path of light inside the eye also known as refractive errors is the major cause of vision loss around the world. Cataracts; the white milky layer over the eyes which blocks the light from entering your eyes is a close second. Visual impairment is a huge problem affecting a lot of people worldwide causing normal daily activities such as walking, reading, or driving to become impossible or very challenging. In spite of this, technology and human ingenuity have shined through the darkness of visual impairment and have come up with some very clever low vision aids such as magnifying glasses and a whole new system of writing known as Braille. The low vision aids are classified into two types; Optical Aids and Non-Optical Aids. Knowledge is the key to living with low vision or blindness. People with low vision can enhance their quality of life by learning which optical and non-optical aids can help them, and by integrating strategies for dealing with the visual impairment in daily life.
The White Cane. This device has become an international symbol for Blindness
Low Vision Aids – Non-Optical Aids
The variety and the quality of non-optical aids have just shot through the roof due to the advent of technology and the internet. For example, manufacturers make sure to introduce bright and bumpy marks on the equipment to help their visually impaired customers. To help tell time, there are talking clocks and watches as well as clocks, timers, and watches with large, easy-to-read faces. There are non-optical aids that help you do things that are near impossible for visually impaired people such as threading the needle or keeping a pair of socks together and many more such tools. For the exercise-conscious, even pedometers have learned to talk! Sometimes something as simple as improved illumination can help a visually impaired person greatly. The simplest of non-optical low vision aids are a thin colored sheet of transparent plastic. Colors such as yellow or red which when kept over the page to be read, increase the contrast thereby making the alphabets on the page more visible. Some other simple devices include the Writing Guard. A writing guard is a non-optical low vision device that helps visually impaired people write better. Writing guides are black cards with rectangular cut-outs in a horizontal direction. This black card with rectangular holes can be placed over a page using which the person can write better. Some telephone dials, watches, and books are made large, much larger than what we are used to seeing. Dials of the telephone when made bigger help the person see well.
Some countries have also started using Guide Dogs which are well-trained dogs that guide a visually impaired person through cities and lives with the person at all times. Such guide dogs are very well trained to adapt to a human style of life. Such dogs understand when to crossroads and how to protect their blind or visually impaired owner’s from the outside world and make sure they are safe.
The internet and computer are not to be left behind either. Microsoft Windows includes a built-in screen magnification program that magnifies a selected portion of the screen to help people with visual impairment. Screen reader programs are designed to allow even totally blind people to use the computer. They convert the text and icons to speech so one can use a computer without needing to see the monitor. This text-to-speech technology has been in constant use ever since we now have audiobooks for every best-seller so that the visually impaired people don’t have to depend on their sight to read literature.