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Low Vision — I cant see, what does that mean to me?

March 07, 2013- A question often asked, what is low vision? When people say, 'I can't see', what does this mean. Is it as simple as putting on a pair of glasses. No, it's not. Low vision can impact on activities of day to day living e.g. crossing roads, reading a form.

"What exactly does low vision mean?"

This is a question I was asked recently.

When someone says, 'I can't see', what do they mean? Is it as simple as putting on a pair of glasses?

No, it is not.

The definition of low vision:

Low vision/vision impairment is reduced vision, that can’t be improved with prescription glasses, or contact lenses, and has the affect of limiting a person’s ability with tasks, activities or functions.

Therefore, people do have SOME vision, but have a variety of vision limitations, e.g.:

• Unable to read numbers on bus, tram, train timetable
• Unable to differentiate different denominations of coins and notes
• Unable to see people's faces
• Unable to read menus or forms
• Unable to see where to sign a form
• Unable to judge steps, curbs or where a cup of tea is on the table
• Difficulty crossing the road, or navigating a new area

These are just a few examples of issues, people with low vision encounter daily, and many times a day.


• Macular Degeneration affecting critical central vision
• Glaucoma affecting peripheral/side vision
• Stroke affecting side vision, often in both eyes
• Cataracts and corneal disease blurring vision generally
• Diabetes-vision loss can be temporary or permanent as a result of leaking blood vessels at the back of the eye.

Question for the Reader:

• When you look at someone, can you tell if they have low vision or a vision impairment?

More often than not, NO.

• Sometimes people with a vision impairment, may wear a badge saying 'VIP, Vision Impaired Person'.

Action you should take:

• When someone says, 'I can't see', take the time to listen, think and assist as necessary.
• Learn more about low vision, and how it can have a huge impact on people's day to day activities.
• Do you know a family member, a friend having difficulty with their vision? In the workplace, you may deal with people who have low vision.

Contact Now:

Call Jane Barnes, an Orthoptist in Melbourne Australia on 0425 70 50 10, or send an email via http://www.eyesightessentials.com to discuss any vision concerns.

The website provides a wealth of information. Refer to the page on Low Vision.

Jane's business, Eyesight Essentials, is a low vision advisory service that provides assistance to people with low vision as well as their family or carers.

Eyesight Essentials can assess, trial and train vision impaired people in the use of magnifiers, as well as other aids and equipment to assist in daily activities.

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