Low vision aids: when problems persist – includes related information

Katherine Spurlock

A low-vision specialist is trained to make the most of a person’s remaining vision with optical aids–such as lenses, magnifiers, or filters. Because different aids work best for different tasks, you will likely come away from a low-vision specialist with more than one aid. Not everyone sees the same way through the same devices according to Dr. Rosenthal. The opportunity to try out devices is a major benefit to visiting a low-vision specialist rather than choosing an aid out of a catalog. Moreover, you should note how comfortable or fatiguing the device is to use. For example, if you find it difficult to hold a magnifier steady, you may prefer one that attaches to your glasses.

Optical aids range from hand-held magnifiers, which cost a few dollars, to lenses and telescopes that may cost over $1,000, to computers that magnify texts (CCTVs) which may cost $2,500 or more. The CCTV is a good device for low-vision reading, because it maximizes contrast and can enlarge a word up to 60 times, which is helpful for people with blind spots. It may also be less fatiguing because the eyes don’t have to focus through a narrow lens and you don’t have to hold anything.

Low-vision specialists also offer prism lenses to help correct double vision. But for infrequent or transient problems with double vision, which are common for people with MS, Dr. Rosenthal said “temporarily patching one eye often works better.”

Finally, lowvision specialists may suggest tinting your ordinary lenses to filter out distracting glare, UV, and “blue” light. Trying out different filters pays off since some people happen to see better through different types of tints.

Unfortunately, most insurance policies do not cover optical aids. Check yours anyway because a few policies cover them as “prosthetic devices”. If optical aids are essential to your job, seek advice on negotiating for a job accommodation from your NMSS chapter.

Ask your neurologist, opthalmologist, optometrist or family doctor for a referral to a low-vision specialist. You may also call The Lighthouse’s Information and Resource Service at 1-800-334-5497.

Catalogs offer a treasure-trove of useful and inexpensive gadgets like talking watches and calculators, large-button remote controls and telephones, writing guides, and kitchen gadgets.

Call Maxi/Aids at 1-800-522-6294 or The Lighthouse at 1-800-334-5497 for free catalogs.

See INSIDE MS, Fall 1993, page 13, for information on the free Library of Congress “Talking Books” program.

Descriptive Video Service provides audio descriptions of key visual elements for television programs and movies. A number of public television stations carry this service. For information about DVS in your area and to get a DVS guide and catalog, call 1-800-333-1203.

COPYRIGHT 1994 National Multiple Sclerosis Society

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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