Vision is a complex sense, encompassing the ability to perceive detail (acuity), color and contrast, and to distinguish objects. These capabilities can diminish naturally with age. While most visual changes can be corrected by glasses, medicine or surgery, visual changes caused by eye disease, poor health or injury can cause permanent vision loss. If the loss is total, the result is blindness. If it is partial, the result is a vision impairment known as “low vision.”
Low vision can cause difficulty in seeing detailed letters and numbers when reading, recognizing the slope of a curb, steps, or facial features, and distinguishing between similar colors, such as black and blue. People with low vision experience difficulties performing activities of daily living and maintaining their independence. The goal of low vision therapy is to maximize the person’s remaining sight to enhance function and independence.
Physical, Occupational and Speech therapists instruct individuals in efficient use of their remaining vision with optical and non-optical devices and when indicated utilize assistive technology. They determine compensatory strategies and environmental modifications to promote a safe, healthy, and satisfying lifestyle.
The biggest challenge is that low vision is a hidden disability and its symptoms are often attributed to other causes. Therapists can screen for issues using observation, asking directed questions and utilizing self-report assessments such as the Self-Report Assessment of Functional Visual Performance (SRAFVP) and Smith Low Vision Independence Measure (LVIM).
While there are many facilitative and compensatory strategies used to enhance performance and safety during ADLS and IADLS some of the more common ones used for low vision are:
Magnification: large print items, magnifiers, CCTV, prismatic glasses, software/apps
Non-Optical: bold pens, writing guides, bump dots, talking medical devices
Lighting: Gooseneck lamp, task lighting, bulbs-soft white/ambient LED, overhead lighting, flashlight
Controlling glare: Sunglasses or filters, block direct light with shades, cover shiny surfaces
Increasing contrast: Black on white, high contrast marks/reflective tape, colored toothpaste
Using other senses: Smell- danger (smoke) Hearing-talking devices Touch-bump dots, rubber bands Taste-food
Organization and Memory: Memorize placement of items and layout of new environment, fold money, organize shopping lists, safety pins on clothing