February is Low Vision Awareness Month. Currently, 4.2 million Americans ages 40 and older are visually impaired. By 2030, when the last baby boomers turn 65, this number is projected to reach 7.2 million, with 5 million having low vision.
What is low vision? Low vision refers to reduced vision that causes functional problems and cannot be corrected by surgery, medical treatment, glasses or contact lenses.
Age-related macular degeneration is a common cause of low vision in older adults. Though medical treatment can slow the progression of the disease, age-related macular degeneration often results in problems with reading and seeing detail. Sometimes, lighting alone can help a person to read. The Lux IQ test can determine the ideal brightness and color of light, so the correct lamp can be recommended. Teaching a patient how to view to shift the blurred spot out of the way can also be helpful.
If needed, magnification is recommended. Magnification can be provided in the form of handheld or stand magnifiers, strong reading glasses, telescopic aids, video magnifiers, or e-readers (such as tablets). During a low vision assessment, the patient has the opportunity to try various types of aids to determine which device or aid is most effective. UDS Low Vision Services has all types of low vision aids available and, in many cases, the aids can be loaned for a two week trial period.
Children may have low vision due to a hereditary condition such as albinism or brain damage which occurs early in life and causes cerebral visual impairment. A low vision assessment can be an integral part of the ETR (Evaluation Team Report) which is the comprehensive assessment of a student who has a disability which may impact their ability to learn. The low vision assessment will help the family and the education staff to better understand how the child sees and how this visual impairment impacts learning. The comprehensive low vision report may also include recommendations for low vision aids, classroom accommodations, and additional assessments or services.
For working-age individuals, low vision aids may help with job-related activities. Some individuals may be able to maintain driving privileges through the bioptic driving program, which is a collaboration between UDS Low Vision Services and Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation.
Individuals who may be interested in low vision services should ask their eye doctor if they may benefit and request a referral for low vision services.