Quick Tips on Using a Magnifier
(adapted from Spring 2001 Newsletter)
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.
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.
If you wear bifocals, viewing the
handheld magnifier through the "distance"
part of the bifocals will usually give the
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 wear bifocals, viewing the
stand magnifier through the "near vision"
part of the bifocals will usually give the
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.
In conversation, though, a person may feel uncomfortable
or slighted if yu never appear to make eye contact.
Spend part of the time looking directly at the
person with whom yuo're talking, even if you can't
see their face that way.
Getting Around by Bus and Metrorail
(adapted from Fall 2005 and Spring 2006 Newsletters)
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.
Getting Around by Car
(adapted from Spring 2006 Newsletter)
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.
Montgomery County Transportation Reimbursement Program
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.
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.
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.
(from Spring 2005 Newsletter)
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
Quick Computer Tips
(adapted from Spring 2003 Newsletter)
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: www.microsoft.com/enable/.
(for Macintosh computers:
See also the Computer page
of this LVC web site for more information.
Quick Television Tips
(adapted from Fall 2001 Newsletter)
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
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.
It's always a good idea to notify
your travel agent, carriers, and hotels in
advance of any special help you might need.
Most of them will be happy to assist, but
may be limited in what they can do if they
don't know in advance what to expect.
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
More Travel Tips
(adapted from Summer 2006 Newsletter)
Use a white cane. It makes others aware
that you are visually impaired and may aid
you in getting help when needed.
Carry a phone card or cell phone with
tactile markings. You can store important numbers
on your phone. Or you can record them
and bring a portable tape recorder, with which
you can also listen to music or books on tape.
Organize essential items like paper currency,
keys, tickets and personal ID using a
money belt or hip pack. Also keep handy your
itinerary, destination, addresses and flight
numbers in a format that's accessible to you.
Separate smaller bills for tips and snacks
in a special pocket or wallet. If you're traveling
in Europe, the Euro currency can be distinguished
by size, color and tactile characteristics.
Bring a list of medications, including
dosages and an emergency contact.
Carry a signature guide. Also keep your
flashlight, magnifiers or other low vision
devices in an easily accessible place.
Once in your room, have the hotel staff
show you the nearest fire exit -- even if you're
traveling with a companion. You may be alone
when an emergency occurs.
Ask where the TV remote and telephone
are, how to adjust heat or air conditioning,
how to request a wake-up call or anything else
that's important to you.
Ask hotel staff for help, such as orientation
to restaurants, gift shops or fitness centers.
Be organized when packing. Consider
using plastic bags to separate outfits.
Invest in brightly colored luggage with
long handles and wheels. Or use high-contrast
tape or ribbons on your baggage to make
them easier to identify.
If traveling with a guide dog, bring all
documentation, such as health certificate with
proof of vaccinations and notify carriers and
hotels in advance.