Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Coping With Low Vision

By Maureen Cook |

Low Vision is a condition which is not remediable by using traditional corrective methods such as eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery. There are a myriad of causes which give rise to Low Vision, including glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, head trauma and stroke.

With no traditional remedy available, learning coping strategies are, therefore, crucial to improving a person's quality of life. Mobility, driving and employment may be all adversely affected and this can understandably lead to depression.

We all prize our independence. Below are some coping strategies which can minimize loss of independence and so maximize a low vision sufferer's quality of life.

As we age, even those of us fortunate enough to have healthy eyes need more light to perform our normal everyday tasks. For someone with low vision lighting is critically important. Good general lighting, along with avoidance of glare and shadows, ensure that what vision remains is fully used.

To reduce glare always use shades to cover bare light bulbs, draw blinds or drapes at windows, place seating away from the light source at a window and avoid shiny floors and table tops. Using matte paper is also a good idea when reading and writing.

To eliminate shadows when doing close work, use two adjustable lamps positioned on either side of the work rather than having one lamp directly in front. When writing place the lamps on the opposite side of the writing hand. Shadows can also be prevented by locating the lower edge of the lampshade just below eye level.

While it is important to control the intensity of light and the glare, contrast is a key coping strategy for people with low vision. The greater the contrast, the easier it is to locate and use familiar objects in the home.

So, pour dark coffee into a white cup and use white dishes for eating dark colored food (and vice versa). If measuring out coffee, or any other dark-colored food use white measuring cups. For flour and sugar, on the other hand, use black measuring cups. Black coasters placed on white counters make a good foil for a glass of milk or pills, and make them easy to find. Spillages are also less likely to occur.

On doors and drawers install contrasting colored handles and use high contrast tape or contrasting colored stickers to mark oven dials, microwave switches, thermostats and salt and pepper shakers. As a handy reference point place a dot or sticker on the #5 to help with dialing. The rest of the numbers are then easier to locate.

In the bathroom a dark bathmat will make a white tub more easily visible and a dark toilet seat cover will do the same for a white toilet. In the shower a conditioner/shampoo dispenser is very useful, as is a magnifying mirror for shaving and applying makeup.

To aid mobility put contrasting strips on the edges of steps to make them more easily visible and prevent the steps from fading away out of sight. Mobility can be improved by using contrasting colored molding or having the person with visual impairment lightly hold your bent elbow when first encountering unfamiliar steps or obstacles.

Outside, gates and doors should be painted different colors from the fences and walls so that entrances are made easier to find. Light-colored edging should mark the boundary between lawn and flowerbeds, and always make flowers more visible by choosing a contrasting background, for example a white siding for vibrant red flowers.

Finally, if we are looking at optimising the environment of a person with low vision, there is one very important factor that has to be considered. This is the risk from passive "second-hand" smoke to eye health.

The risks of developing eye disease from smoking have been well known for a long time. Smoking reduces the level of oxygen to the eye which, to function well, requires an oxygen-rich environment. Recent research has shown, however, that similar risks exist from secondhand smoke.

A person with low vision, living with a smoker and subject to regular smoke exposure, faces additional damage to the eye equal to the effects of aging. To preserve all remaining vision it is essential that people not only stop smoking but live in a completely smoke free environment. Not doing so renders any coping strategies largely redundant.

Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

Reclaiming Independence: Staying in the Driver's Seat When You No Longer Drive Video Reclaiming Independence: Staying in the Driver's Seat When You No Longer Drive

Useful for both individuals and professionals, this video/resource guide will help you successfully use rehabilitation and transportation resources.

Meet Syd, Wilbert, Josephine, Blanche, Gary, and Johnny and share their stories as they make the transition from driver to nondriver. This video contains vital information that will assist in meeting your transportation needs as you evaluate your situation and the resources available to you.

Types of transportation covered include:

  • Rides with friends and family
  • Public transportation such as buses and light rail
  • Taxi cabs
  • Paratransit services
  • Air travel

The included Resource Guide contains information on:

  • Medical issues and visual impairment
  • Helpful services, instruction, and technology
  • Types of transportation and strategies that promote success
  • Resources, helpful agencies, organizations, and companies

The Reclaiming Independence video is available in either DVD or VHS formats. Both editions include a Resource Guide on cassette tape, in large print, and on CD-ROM. The CD-ROM provides computer files of the Resource Guide for embossing braille or reading with a computer or note taker (includes .brf, .html, and .txt files).

The DVD edition features additional material, including a narrated version of the Resource Guide. DVD menus are spoken aloud, making it possible for all viewers to navigate between chapters of the video and Resource Guide.

Reclaiming Independence: Staying in the Driver's Seat When You No Longer Drive Video
Catalog Number: 1-30020-DVD

Catalog Number: 1-30020-00

Optional Item:
Resource Guide, Braille Edition:
Catalog Number: 5-30020-00
Click this link to purchase Reclaiming Independence: Staying in the Driver's Seat When You No Longer Drive. American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
Web site:
APH Shopping Home:

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.