A New Low Vision Resource from the National Eye Institute

Cover of NEI Low Vision Booklet

The National Eye Institute (NEI) has released a 20-page, full-color, large print booklet with companion videos, in support of Low Vision Awareness Month, February 2013. The booklet and videos were developed by NEI’s National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP).

The mission of NEI, a part of the National Institutes of Health, is to “conduct and support research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to blinding eye diseases, visual disorders, mechanisms of visual function, preservation of sight, and the special health problems and requirements of the blind.”

The goal of NEHEP is to “ensure that vision is a health priority by translating eye and vision research into public and professional education programs. NEHEP supports collaboration among eye health professionals, healthcare providers, patients, and the public.”

The Booklet: Living with Low Vision

The new 20-page booklet, Living with Low Vision: What you should know, urges individuals with low vision to seek help from a low vision specialist, and provides information about the low vision examination, including resources for additional – and helpful – vision rehabilitation services. The Table of Contents contains a number of useful and practical topics, including:

  • What is low vision?
  • How do I know if I have low vision?
  • How do I know when to get an eye exam?
  • Meet Erin, Joma, Lawrence, and Ruth, who have low vision
  • What can I do if I have low vision?
  • What questions should I ask my eye care team?
  • Questions to ask your eye care professional
  • Questions to ask your specialist in low vision
  • Where can I go for more information?
  • A glossary of low vision terms

An Excerpt: Lawrence’s Story

In the following excerpt from the NEI booklet, Lawrence, who has glaucoma, tells the story of his own “low vision journey”:

Photo of Lawrence from NEI video

After ten years in the Navy, Lawrence began losing his sight. Sadly, he also thought he’d lose his favorite pastime – painting.

When Lawrence was diagnosed with glaucoma, his vision was nearly gone. To learn how to make use of his remaining eyesight, he enrolled in a vision rehabilitation program where he was taught new ways to do certain tasks.

With the help of an orientation and mobility specialist, Lawrence learned how to move around safely in his home and how to travel by himself. Also, telescopic spectacles—an adaptive device attached to his glasses—help Lawrence to read and see the TV screen more clearly.

The Companion Video: Living with Low Vision

The companion video/DVD to the booklet, Living with Low Vision: Stories of Hope and Independence, features personal stories about living, and successfully coping, with low vision.

The video features testimonials from six men and women who have benefited from low vision and vision rehabilitation services and continue to lead active, productive, and independent lives: Natina English, who has diabetic retinopathy; Lawrence Harrison, who has glaucoma; Erin Kerkhoff, who has congenital optic atrophy; Joma Leonard, who has albinism; Ruth Lotz, who has macular degeneration; and Ruth Margolies, who also has macular degeneration. You can view the full video, which also includes information for health care professionals, at the NEI website.

More about Low Vision from VisionAware

Low vision means that even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery, you might find it challenging, or even difficult, to perform everyday tasks, such as reading your mail, shopping, cooking, and signing your name.

People age 65 and older, as well as African Americans and Hispanics over age 45, are at higher risk of having low vision from macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or from a stroke.

There are many signs that can indicate low vision. For example, even with your regular glasses, do you have difficulty:

  • Recognizing faces of your friends and relatives?
  • Performing tasks that require you to see well up close, such as reading, cooking, sewing, fixing things around the house, or picking out and matching the color of your clothing?
  • Performing tasks at work or home because lights seem dimmer than they used to?
  • Reading street and bus signs or the names of stores?

VisionAware also provides a wide array of customized videos and personal stories to help you learn more about changing your home; daily living activities; orientation & mobility; using technology; hearing and vision loss; preventing falls; and improving lighting.

You can use the American Foundation for the Blind Directory of Services to locate low vision and vision rehabilitation services that are available in your state and local area.