Living with Vision Loss: Practical Tips to Make Life Safer and Easier

Although there is no cure for many major eye diseases, there are compensatory techniques you can use to complete common everyday tasks.

Starting tips

Having an OT trained in vision rehabilitation therapy or a rehabilitation therapist working with you will make sure you are meeting your life goals in a satisfactory way.

The key to most activities is object identification. Mark all products with bold print, color coding, puff paint, index cards, rubber bands, and other tactile markings to differentiate one product from another. For example, place a rubber band on the shampoo and not the conditioner. A magnifier can be used during many activities below but should be prescribed by a low vision optometrist. This list doesn't encompass all of the techniques available, but there are plenty here to get you started.

Personal care

Applying toothpaste to your toothbrush
  • Place a finger alongside the length of the bristles to monitor the toothpaste application.
  • Squirt the toothpaste directly into your mouth.
Haircare
  • Hang a dark towel on the wall behind a fair-haired person’s head and vice versa.
Shaving
  • Use landmarks such as a point on the ear to indicate where to shave.
  • Use overlapping strokes.
  • Repeat coverage at a 90-degree angle from the first set of strokes.
Make-up
  • Use facial landmarks to locate areas such as the cheekbones to apply blush and eyeshadow.
  • Use subtle shades to avoid visible errors.
  • Count the number of strokes on the cake of blush or eyeshadow to control the amount applied.
Nail care
  • Consider a clear polish to provide shine.
  • Stabilize the nail polish brush with the middle finger while holding the brush between your thumb and index finger.
  • Place the nail polish in the refrigerator to make it easier to feel upon application.
Sorting medications
  • Use pillboxes.
  • Use different numbers of rubber bands or color codes for various times of the day (yellow for the morning, black for the night).
  • Many pharmacies now provide large print or a talking device by placing the label against the device (Walmart and Sam’s club).
Eating
  • Explore the contents of your plate with the tines of your fork.
  • Determine the cutting edge of your knife by dragging an edge against the edge of the plate. Feel or listen for serrations.

Home management

Washing and drying clothes
  • Mark dials with a tactual or color-contrasting marking or memorizes desired settings.
  • Use a rustproof safety pin to mark a known stain.
Money identification
  • Identify coins by size or by listening and feeling for serrations of sides.
  • Fold paper currency (ones open, fives folded in half crosswise, tens folded in half-length lengthwise, and the twenties folded two times).
  • Contact the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for a free electronic money identifier, a small portable device that reads out the denomination when you insert the bill.
Banking
  • Use bold lines, raised line checks available at most banks, or use a check writing guide.
  • Request large statements.
  • Bank online if you have screen-reading technology on your computer.

Meal preparation

Pouring
  • Use sound, weight, and the temperature felt through the cups’ sides to determine the height of fluid.
  • Use a ping pong ball and feel with your palm when it rises while filling the cup.
  • Use a small device called an electronic level indicator with tubes inserted into the cup. When the fluid reaches the proper level, it makes a sound.
Cutting
  • Curl the nondominant fingers on the product to be sliced, and use the index finger to briefly assess the thickness of the slice. Draw the finger back to a curled position, and slice, ensuring that the tip of the knife makes the final cut.
  • Use a contrasting cutting board, with green cucumber on the white side of the cutting board, and onion on the black.
  • Use a knife with a guide.
Using the stove
  • Make sure the pan fits the burner.
  • Use tactile or high contrast markings for the preferred setting or use the clock face method for setting and gauging the temperature on the stove.
  • Sweep your hand above the pot or pan to ensure the pot or pan is centered.
  • Either mark handles with high contrast tape, or keep the handles placed at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions to avoid knocking the pan over.
  • Explore apps such as Seeing Al, Be My Eyes, and TapTapSee to identify products in the kitchen or household items.

Communication

Using a telephone
  • Use the home row on the phone for dialing, which can be located by a raised bump on number 5. For a right-handed person, place the index finger on the number 4 and the ring finger on 6. Slide these fingers up a row to access 1, 2, and 3 and slide down to access 7, 8, and 9. The star, 0, and # sign rows are at the bottom row.
  • Utilize directory assistance exemption and directory assistance exemption, which is a service afforded those with a disability to locate and dial a number for free.
Recording information

Leisure

Bingo
  • Play with a large print bingo card; many styles are available.
  • Use a card with shutters that slide over the number or a magnetic chip.
Knitting
  • Use a needle that contrasts with the yarn.
  • Develop a method of keeping count of the rows and stitches; place a “counter” (a penny, button, or matchstick) inside a container as you complete each row. Count them as needed.
Bowling
  • Use a guide rail on the side of the lane to the center bowling ball.
  • Use a sighted person to identify pins that remain up and keep score.

Mobility

Walking
  • Stand next to the trailing surface facing the intended direction. While walking, ensure your hand is curled and gently touches the surface. Check every couple of steps that you are maintaining a straight line of travel.
Stair climbing
  • Mark the top and bottom of the step with color contrasting, non-slip material, or place a raised marking under the rail where the top step is and on the second raised marking of the handrail at the last step at the bottom.
  • Reach out to find the handrail and pause to locate the first step before descending, and pause briefly at the bottom step before reaching the floor.

There are additional techniques and devices that can help you if you have vision loss. You can do the same activities just in a different way that may work better for you. Three very helpful catalogs can be obtained in print or accessed online: Maxi Aids, Learning Sight and Sound, and Independent Living Aids.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common eye disorders and diseases.

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