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LOW VISION
CENTER

Winning Solutions for Failing Sight
Serving Our Community Since 1979




Quick Tips

On this page:

Quick Tips on Lighting

  • 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 by darkness.

  • 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 shadows.

  • 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 level.

  • 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 window.

  • 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 or writing.

  • 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 provide.

  • 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.

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Quick Tips for Everyday Activities
(from Summer 1999 Newsletter)

  • 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.

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Quick Tips on Using a Magnifier
(from Spring 2001 Newsletter)

Hand-Held

  • 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 and higher.

  • 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 and down, 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

  • 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 and 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 you read.

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Getting Around by Bus and Metrorail
(adapted from Fall 2005 and Spring 2006 Newsletters)

The Washington 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 202-962-1245 or 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 e-mail subscription 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 MetroOpensDoors.com to register.

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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 http://mva.state.md.us/DriverServ/VisionScreen/default.htm.

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 more information.

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Audible Pedestrian Signals

Some intersections in Montgomery County are equipped with audible 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.

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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.

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Reach-a-Ride web site

If you have special transit needs, try searching the Reach-a-Ride web site for a company or agency that can meet them.

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At the Restaurant

Large-print Menus: Many 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.

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.

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Getting Organized
(from Summer/Fall 2007 Newsletter)

  • Eliminate clutter!

    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 particular item.

  • Once you have de-cluttered your home, organize!

    • 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, and clothing.

    • 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 orange juice.

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Kitchen Organization
(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 need.

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Quick Computer Tips
(adapted from Spring 2003 Newsletter)

As many of you have already discovered, computers can be outstanding low vision aids.

Did you know you can change the font size of web pages using Internet Explorer? Simply click “view” on the tool bar then “text size,” then select a font size.  In Mozilla Firefox, 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.

Microsoft also provides screen magnification. Click on the “start” menu, then click “programs,” then “accessories,” then “accessibility,” then “magnifier.”  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: www.apple.com/accessibility/)

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Quick Television Tips
(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.

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Tips For Tracking Your Medications
(from Fall 2002 Newsletter)

  • 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.

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