Many of you are probably not aware that February has been designated as Low Vision Awareness Month. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to bring this fact to your attention, and to provide some insight as to what is meant by a Low Vision disability, and how it impacts the life of those so afflicted. and those who live with or interact with someone so afflicted. Perhaps you know someone with low vision disability but do not realize they have the disease. I will discuss some of the most common signs and symptoms of low vision, and what you may do to assist, without treating the individual as if they are suddenly illiterate. So, read on and learn, Grasshopper.
Most, but not all, low vision issues are the result of a degenerative eye disease that affects the retina. This typically is the result of aging and is frequently referred to as Age Related Eye Disease (ARED). Most common in this category is macular degeneration. Without getting too technical, the macula is a small area of the retina where most information sent to the eyes is received and then forwarded to the brain. When the macula deteriorates the information received and forwarded is not as inclusive or accurate as it once was. Vision is not lost, but it is impacted. Abilities that we all take for granted or no longer available or are available in a limited fashion.
As the disease progresses it becomes more difficult to read without the assistance of magnification and eventually even magnification is not enough. Driving becomes hazardous as it is difficult to see traffic lights or brake lights from a sufficient distance to allow for an appropriate reaction time. Fine detailed vision is lost and therefore the ability to discern facial features and body language is limited and this results in impaired communication ability. You may be ten feet away from someone with ARED and they will not recognize you until you speak. They know a person is near them, but since the face is mostly just a blur, they do not know who that person is. Daily tasks that most take for granted such as eating, watching TV, using a computer or smart phone, or locating items in a store become arduous.
Now you are aware and Low Vision Awareness Month issuccessful. If you know someone with this disability, please assist them, without making them feel like an invalid. Do not do things that needlessly highlight the disability. For example, “You either need to get a larger monitor or better glasses”, or “I have never seen anybody sit that close to their monitor”. One of my favorite in a classroom setting, said several times to an impaired person “I know you can’t see the powerpoint, but everybody else can, so try to follow along”. If a person with ARED stares intently at you, they are not glaring and are not being hostile, they are only trying to discern your facial expressions. If you know someone so afflicted and are at a loss what to buy them for Christmas or a birthday, buy them a 4x or greater LED lit magnifying glass. One just can’t have too many magnifying glasses.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
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