Winning Solutions for Failing
Serving Our Community Since 1979
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- Provide light throughout the room along with additional task lighting near the
activity. While the area of activity should be bright, the entire room must also be
well illuminated to eliminate shadows. One should not work in a pool of light surrounded
- Move lamps close to your work. To help avoid glare, use an adjustable lamp and
position the lamp to the side, rather than directly in front of you. Many people find
it helpful to have lamps on both the right and left sides -- that will eliminate
- When writing, to prevent shadows, place the lamps on the opposite side of the
hand being used. Locate the bottom edge of the lampshade just below eye
- To reduce glare, cover bare light bulbs of all types with shades. Soften bright
light from windows with coverings like blinds or sheer curtains. Also, position the
chair and table so you don't have to look directly at the light coming from the
- To further reduce glare, cover or remove shiny surfaces such as floors and table
tops. Shiny paper can increase glare, so try to use matte paper when reading
- In hallways and stairways, provide generous amounts of light and position it so that it
shines on the walls, floors, steps, and railings.
- Keep all rooms evenly lit. It is difficult for your eyes to adjust from bright
light to low light, so if you keep all rooms well lit, it will be more comfortable to
walk from room to room. Try not to walk from a brightly lit room immediately to
a dark one.
- Carry address stickers with you to use when filling out forms. It's far easier to place
a sticker on the form than to write your name and address in the tiny spaces most forms
- Use a lap desk or reading stand when you use your magnifier to prevent back strain,
especially for magnifiers that have a short focal length.
Carry return address labels with you and when you need to write your name
and address on a form or paper, use the address label instead.
If you have trouble differentiating between two keys, use sticky-back
velcro tape. Stick the rough part to the top part of one key and the smooth
part to the top of the other key.
To increase your field of view and increase the
number of words you can see at one time, hold the magnifier very close
to your eye. This is especially important for magnifiers that are 4x
Bring your reading material closer to your eye to again increase
your field of view.
Move the paper, not the magnifier, as you read. Moving the magnifier
will slow your reading speed and increase distortion and frustration.
Make sure the magnifier and your reading material are held at
the same angle to prevent distortion. If your magnifier is straight up
your paper needs to be straight up and down. If your paper is at a 45 degree
angle, your magnifier must also be at a 45 degree angle.
Stand magnifiers are meant to lie right on the paper. Don’t
pick them up and use them like hand held magnifiers.
To maximize your field of view, you must bring the magnifier
very close to your eye. To get the magnifier near to your eye, bend over
put your eye right at the top of the magnifier. To prevent back strain,
use a lap desk or reading stand.
Slide the magnifier across the page without lifting it up as
If you have a condition such as macular degeneration
which affects your central vision, learn to look
slightly above, below, or to the side of an object
you're trying to see. This is called
"eccentric viewing," puts the object's image on
a healthier part of your retina, and may let you
see more detail.
Metro system has many features intended to aid those with low
vision. Call 202-962-1100 to get a free copy of Metro's
brochure "Tips for Riding Metro for People
with Disabilities". Metro provides free
bus and rail system orientations for people
with disabilities. Call 202-962-1558 to schedule
an orientation. An 18-minute orientation video can
also be accessed from the
Metro web site.
As a Metrorail train enters each station, the train operator announces
the train's line and destination on the train's P.A. system, so you can
tell if the arriving train is the one for which you are waiting. En
route, the operator announces each station and says on which side of the
train the doors will open.
Many Metrobusses now have automated audio announcements that let you keep track of where the bus is
as you ride.
Some farecard machines have audio output to help you through the
transaction. Push the large button labeled "AUDIO" near the top of
the machine's center panel.
Even if you aren't yet 65 years old, you may qualify for reduced fares if
your vision loss constitutes a "disability." Call Metro at
visit their web
site for more information or to ask for an
application for the
Metro Reduced Fare Program for
people with disabilities.
Metro also offers a free
service to notify customers of Metrorail elevator
service disruptions. Customers may sign
up to receive notification by e-mail, text message,
pager or personal digital assistant. Visit
elstat.wmata.com/ to register.
If you can't drive safely, then obviously you shouldn't drive. But
low vision is not always a bar to safe and legal driving. In Maryland,
you may be eligible for a restricted driver's license with 20/70 vision or
better, and under certain circumstances you can get a license with visual
acuity of 20/100. More details are on the Maryland MVA
web site at
Discuss your situation with your eye
doctor to learn what special techniques and restrictions might help you
drive safely. The
Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore offers an evaluation
program to help you understand how (or if) you can safely drive with your
particular vision; call the Hopkins
Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center at 410-955-0580 for
Some intersections in Montgomery County are equipped with
pedestrian crossing signals. On some models, if you hold the
button in for five seconds while it is beeping, it will announce
the location of the crosswalk -- for example, "WAIT! ... to cross
FREDERICK ROAD at REDLAND ROAD."
This might be helpful if you are looking for a particular cross street
and have trouble reading the street signs.
The Montgomery County
government issues an annual grant to Columbia
Lighthouse for the Blind to provide a limited amount of free
transportation (e.g., taxi fare) to allow visually impaired County
residents to attend social activities.
Advance approval is needed. Follow this link
to more details.
If you have special transit needs, try searching the
Reach-a-Ride web site for a
company or agency that can meet them.
Low vision should not deter you from using ordinary
public transportation. If, though,
there are additional issues which prevent you
from using Metrobus and Metrorail, then follow
these links to learn about
Large-print Menus: Some restaurants have large-print menus available; all
you have to do is ask. Besides having larger text, such menus may be
in simple black and white for improved contrast and be formatted in a single
column to make them easier to scan with a hand magnifier. Some restaurants
also have Braille menus available if you ask.
AllMenus.com: Many restaurants post their menus on the
Internet, on their own web sites and at
You can check the menu before going to the restaurant
or, with a web-enabled cell phone or mobile device,
right there at the restaurant. (Use an earphone
so you don't disturb other diners.) There is also
a free AllMenus
app for the Apple iPhone.
Book lights: If the food is good but the restaurant is too dim to see it
on your plate, try one of the special flashlights designed
to clip on to a book. Get a model which can be adjusted to stand on
the table and direct its light onto your plate, and which folds for
carrying in your pocket or purse. The batteries will last longer
in the kind with an LED bulb instead of a conventional incandescent
bulb. Book lights can frequently be purchased from book stores and
specialty catalog merchants.
(from Summer/Fall 2007 Newsletter)
De-cluttering is key to more easily
managing your home when
you have low vision. Ask a
friend or family member to
help you to sort through
closets, cupboards, file and
medicine cabinets, desks
and any other storage
spaces. Discard unused or
broken tools, expired foods
or medications, and clothes
and accessories you seldom
use. By eliminating clutter,
you will have less to sort
through when looking for a
Once you have
de-cluttered your home,
Use labeled shoeboxes
for storing such things as
purses and medicines.
They can also be used as
dividers in large drawers
to separate things like
belts from scarves, or
socks from stockings.
Use transparent, zip-lock
storage bags to store
certain foods, medications,
Use white, unlined index
cards with dark-colored
and bold-tipped pens for
labeling drawers and
cabinets. You can use
rubber bands to attach
these cards to items such
as cans of soup.
Use rubber bands to help
you distinguish between
similarly shaped bottles,
such as shampoo and
conditioner, or milk and
- If you have a cell phone, you may be able
to use it to record notes that you can
listen to later. Even phones that
aren't "smart" often have sound recording
capability. Sometimes this can be
found in the "Tools" or "My Sounds" area
of your phone's menu system.
Building a Food Pyramid: Designate certain shelves in the refrigerator
for specific items, so that when you reach inside, you will know immediately
what is on a particular shelf. Use the top shelf for beverages, the next
for fruit,the next for vegetables and place the meat on
the bottom shelf.
In the freezer, reserve one shelf for bakery goods, one for beef, one
for chicken and place the vegetables on the door. To aid visitors or helpers,
put up signs that indicate the purpose of each shelf.
Organizing Kitchen Cabinets & Drawers: It's important to have only
one layer of bottles. Place them in the front, on their sides and label
the contents in large print. Take the cereal box, enlarge the hole and
use a giant funnel to pour the cereal from the box into a bottle. Then
label that bottle and place it on its side. Also use this system for flour,
sugar, rice, macaroni, etc. It keeps the food fresh and crispy. You can
also use this to store paint, but use half-gallon size milk bottles to
store the paint. For cabinets, use under the bed boxes and fill them with
pots and pans. Once again use only one layer so that you can just pull
each one out, without reaching in the back in order to get the pan you
As many of you have already discovered, computers can be outstanding
low vision aids.
Many computer application programs, including Mozilla
Firefox and recent versions of Internet Explorer, have
a "zoom" feature that lets you magnify what you're
viewing. Hold down the Control key and press the
"plus" key to magnify the entire image; repeat this to increase the magnification,
press Control-minus to decrease the magnification, or Control-zero to return to
the original size.
In Internet Explorer, you can also change the font
size of web pages.
Simply click "View" on the tool bar then "Text size,"
then select a font size.
Microsoft also provides screen magnification.
In Windows XP, click on the "start" menu,
then click "programs," then "accessories,"
then "accessibility," then "magnifier."
In Windows 7, just type "magnifier" into the
Start Menu search box and press "Enter." For
Windows 2000 and later versions, you can buy one of several models of
Microsoft Mouse with a
"magnify" button that allows more convenient control of screen magnification.
A text-to-speech feature is available in more recent versions of Windows.
You can access it by clicking on the “start” menu, then clicking “programs”,
then “accessories”, then “accessibility,” then “narrator.”
A variety of audio output programs is also available from other vendors,
ranging from simple text-to-speech programs costing less than $100 to
full-functioned screen readers costing nearly $1000.
The Microsoft website offers many suggestions for making your PC easier to
use, including increasing the size of both icons and fonts, altering the size
and style of the cursor, changing the color scheme, and other useful ideas.
The Microsoft accessibility web address is:
(for Macintosh computers:
See also the Computer page
of this LVC web site for more information.
Watching TV can be troublesome when you have low vision. Experiment to see
if any of these tips help you enjoy your favorite television programs.
Make sure there is no glare shining on the TV from a window or light.
Try moving closer to a smaller television set rather than closer to
a larger television set; that way you'll see someone's whole face,
not just his nose.
Adjust the contrast on the TV so that the colors are either very bright
or only black and white.
- For some TV programs, additional
audio description is broadcast on the Secondary
Audio Program (SAP). Try using the menu system on
your TV or cable box to enable the
SAP. On some TVs, the option might be called
"language," because the SAP is sometimes also used
to broadcast the program in a different language.
- If you like to watch TV with family or friends,
consider getting a small second TV to put near
your favorite chair. You can adjust this
TV to your viewing needs and put it as
close as necessary without affecting your
Use color-coding, bump
dots or large print to mark your containers.
Wrap rubber bands around the bottle, using one band for each time you
should take your medication. Remove one rubber band each time you take
your medicine and start again the next day.
Write in large print or record on cassette important information about
each drug, including the dosage, time to take it, side effects, etc.
- Ask your pharmacist if he has large
print labels or printed material.
Many pharmacies can also supply talking prescription
- For more information and tips
about managing medications, see
the National Eye Institute web
To make it easier to identify bills in your wallet,
fold them in a consistent pattern based on
is to take $1 bills and fold them twice, from left
to right. Take $5 bills; fold them left to right
and then again from top to bottom. $10 bills
are folded lengthwise and then folded again
from left to right. $20 bills are folded into
thirds. $50 bills are left unfolded and $100 bills
are clipped with a paperclip at top and kept
unfolded. Keep all bills of the same denomination
Learn to identify coins by touch.
Dimes, quarters and 50-cent pieces have
around their edges. The dime is the smallest
and thinnest. The quarter is larger and thicker.
The 50-cent piece is even larger. Pennies and
nickels have smooth edges. The penny is
smaller and thinner. The nickel is larger, thicker
and has a slightly thicker rim around its
The U. S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
(BEP) plans to add tactile features to our
paper money in the next round of redesign.
Meanwhile, if you have an Apple iPhone or other
IOS device, or an Android
smart phone or device, you can get a free app
to identify the denomination of a U. S.
bill by using the device's camera. For
Apple devices the app is iNote, and for
Android devices the app is IDEAL.
More information is on the BEP web site at
For those without smart phones or who want
another option, the BEP
provides iBill talking
banknote identifier devices free of charge
to eligible blind and
visually impaired individuals.
(If you are a registered user of the Talking
Book program, you automatically qualify and
no additional certification is needed.) For
details and an application form, see the BEP web site at
The Low vision Center has an iBill device available
for demonstration; call us at 301-951-4444 if
you'd like to come try it.
If you have trouble telling your credit cards apart at sight,
clip a little bit from the corner of one of them,
so the corner has angles instead of being rounded.
Then you can distinguish that card by touch.
Be careful not to clip off any code numbers, and
don't damage the magnetic strip or microchip.
- U. S. National Parks:
If your vision is poor enough to constitute
a "permanent disability" in the legal sense,
then you qualify for a free
which allows free
access to all national
parks. Some other Federal
recreation facilities also
honor the pass, and some provide
discounts to passholders for
ancillary services. See