Assistive Devices and Technology for Low Vision
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2023
In macular degeneration, central vision is affected while peripheral vision remains unchanged. You might experience a blurred area in the center of your vision or blank spots. Complete blindness does not occur from macular degeneration alone, but it can affect your ability to see faces, drive, read, and write, among other things.
Adapting to vision loss
While you can still do many of your everyday activities with macular degeneration, you might need to adapt them to your changing vision, using assistive devices and technologies. A trained OT or certified low-vision specialist can help you navigate the choices of assistive devices.
Handheld and household devices
There are a variety of handheld and household devices that can help make everyday activities easier with MD. Some people use 1 or 2, while others might have many assistive devices. As your vision changes over the course of your macular degeneration, you might find yourself using some of these at different points of the condition. Some of these devices include:1
- Handheld and desktop magnifiers: These come in a variety of strengths, as well as contrasting color options, to help you see better. You can bring these with you to different areas of the house, or use them to assist you with various things you do, like reading or sewing.
- Adaptive devices: Large-numbered clocks, phones, and microwaves can help you see more easily; talk functions on clocks can tell you the time.
- Large-print reading materials: Many publishers print large-print books; these are often accessible from the library; there are also audiobooks through special apps, at the library, and for purchase.
- Eyeglasses with high-powered lenses: There are adaptive lenses that have high magnification, as well as telescopic lenses; they can also reduce glare and provide high contrast.
In addition to all of the assistive devices, there are also multiple technologies available that can assist those with low vision.
- Special computer software can be installed to help magnify the text on the screen, and there is speech-to-text software that can help transcribe emails for you, as well as programs that convert text to speech.1
- There are reading devices that can convert written text to speech; these can be connected to a computer, or they can be portable.1
- Closed-circuit television (CCTV) magnifiers can also be helpful. This is a combination of a camera and magnifying system: when the camera is pointed at an object, a magnified image of the object appears on the television screen, allowing you to see the object better.1
If you are experiencing vision loss or low vision from macular degeneration, talk with your eye doctor about how assistive devices and technologies might be helpful to you, especially as the condition progresses. These can help you maintain your independence and enable you to continue doing the everyday activities that you enjoy. They can provide you with resources that offer assistive devices and technologies.
A certified low-vision therapist or OT can help you acquire these devices and technologies, and show you how to best use them for your needs.