Reading and writing with low vision
During London Vision’s Managing Sight Loss sessions, we explore different ways of accessing printed materials and continuing to write with sight loss. We have highlighted suggestions from the groups but sometimes it’s good to get specific advice tailored to the way you see. This might be from your rehabilitation worker, low vision clinic or perhaps your sight loss specific organisation. Visit this page for sources of support.
- Check you are wearing the correct glasses for reading – your optometrist (optician) will be able to help.
- Magnifiers might help, so ask for a referral to your local low vision service. They will also be able to tell you how to make the best use of your residual vision.
- Ask your rehabilitation worker about the best ways to read at home.
- Experiment by bringing the text closer to your eye.
- Font sizes are given numbers, and the bigger the number, the bigger the font. It is useful to know what font size you prefer, so then then you can ask for letters or information in that size.
- Increasing the size of text (font size) can sometimes make it easier to read, but if you have lost vision to the sides, you may find you benefit from making it smaller.
- Avoid using or printing in curly or fancy fonts and italics.
- Make the most of the light – a reading lamp can make a difference. The closer the light to the page, the brighter it becomes. Beware of glare, angle your light away from your eye.
- Using a piece of cardboard with a line sized hole cut out can allow you to follow a line of print and may stop the words jumping about when you look at them. It will also reduce any light being reflected from the page.
- Placing your finger under the word you are reading may allow you to follow a line of text.
- Increase contrast by printing on different coloured backgrounds.
- Avoid shiny paper as it creates glare.
- Tablet computers allow you to vary font size and the levels of contrast quickly and easily.
- Make yourself comfortable before reading; desks, reading stands and clipboards can all help.
- Don’t try and read for too long.
- Smartphone and other technologies can be used to scan and read a document aloud to you. There are some free apps available. Find out more here.
- Braille and Moon are raised forms of text which you read with your fingers – age is no barrier and a very basic knowledge can allow you to label items, such as different tins and jars, so you can tell them apart.
- Talking books, newspapers and leaflets are an alternative to reading print. You can ask for a free sample from RNIB’s Helpline 0303 123 9999.
- Listening to books or papers is very different from reading, so you might need some perseverance and patience at first.
Using a magnifier
- Magnifiers are often called low vision aids (LVA).
- You can make the very best use of your LVA if you have had professional advice from a low vision clinic. They will be able to advise you on how to make the most of your residual vision. Clinics can provide you with a free aid to meet your identified need.
- To find your nearest LVA clinic visit sightlinedirectory.org.uk, call 0303 123 9999 or chat to your GP, eye specialist or local sight loss society.
- The larger the magnifier the less magnification it gives. It is impossible to significantly magnify a whole page of text.
- Magnifiers broadly come in two types: handheld or stand.
- Stand magnifiers work well for people who have a less than steady hand.
- You will need to keep the stand magnifier on the page at all times. Take your eye down to the magnifier or bring the page and magnifier up to your eye.
- To focus a handheld magnifier, place it on the page and gently raise until the image has focussed. The stronger the magnifier, the closer your eye will need to be to the aid. If you’re seeing coloured lights in the lens it’s not quite focussed.
- If the magnifier does not have a built-in light, then a reading lamp may improve results.
- You may require different magnifiers for different tasks. A larger magnifier with less magnification might help you read larger text, whilst a smaller magnifier with increased magnification might allow you to read smaller things, like prices on items in shops.
- It takes patience, practise and perseverance to use a magnifier to read, so use the magnifier in short bursts and build up slowly.
- Try and find a comfortable position in which to read – using a reading stand or clipboard can help.
- Wearing a magnifier around your neck can allow you quick and easy access whenever you need to read something, or you might like to leave a magnifier in each room of your house.
- Small telescopes can help you spot bus numbers and signs.
- For best results, practise in a quiet, safe place. A mobility worker or rehabilitation officer can help you with this.
- You might not need to use a magnifier if you use large print books, letters or write in a larger felt tip pen.
- There are free smart phone apps which use your smartphone’s camera to act as a magnifier. They can also be used to adjust the contrast or colour of what you are looking at, as well see objects in the distance.
- There is a wide range of electronic magnifiers available (CCTV) that can produce huge levels of magnification, with some models having the ability to read text aloud.
- When completing forms, a contrasting cross drawn next to a signature box may help you see where to sign. You can also ask for a finger to be placed next to the space if someone is there.
- Signature guides are small plastic windows that can be kept in a wallet or purse then placed in the right area on documents as required.
- Find a comfortable place to sit and write and make the best possible use of lighting. Desk lamps can make a real difference.
- Experiment with different colours of pens on different shades of paper until you find a combination to suit.
- Scented pens can help you distinguish different colours.
- Thick, contrastingly lined paper is available to help guide you, or you can make your own with a felt tip and a ruler.
- Moving your non-writing forefinger down the page can help you keep track of the line on which you are writing. You can also slide a paper clip down the page as a marker.
- Writing guides come in different shapes and sizes. These are templates made from plastic or elastic to help you write in straight lines. Your bank will be able to provide one which helps you write cheques. You will also find one in the polling booth that shows you where to make your cross.
- Once you start writing, try not to stop.
- You may find your writing easier to read back if you print.
- Seek advice from a low vision clinic on the best magnifier to use to help you write. Clinics can also provide you with a free aid to meet your identified need.
- A small chalk board might be a useful way of taking down phone numbers.
- You might like to try writing onto a tablet computer using a stylus. It’s different from paper, but you can write using a range of colours and contrasts.
- You can record your voice in order to capture key information and play it back when you need it – great for shopping lists and telephone numbers.
If you would like to learn more about ways to make everyday living a little easier, why not join a Managing Sight Loss session? You can get in touch with us via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or on the phone: 0203 761 3651.
Want more resources? Go back to the Managing Sight Loss course resources page.
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Click here to learn more about the benefits of registering as sight impaired or severely sight impaired.
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