There is a huge variety of low vision aids available to help people with a visual impairment maintain their independence in carrying out various daily tasks.
Sight Scotland Veterans provides pieces of specialist equipment free of charge to veterans with sight loss the charity supports. Here, rehabilitation officer Fiona gives insight into the top ten most popular low vision aids the charity issues to its members.
1) Anti-glare glasses
Many people with a visual impairment have problems with glare and reduced contrast. This can be very problematic and it can have an effect on everyday life. Anti-glare glasses reduce glare by controlling the amount of blue light entering the eyes. Some of the coloured lenses can enhance vision, making it easier to see things such as the definition between the road and the kerb.
One of the reasons our members love these glasses is because they make it much more comfortable to go outside in bright conditions.
2) Dycem non-slip table mats
Dycem mats are brightly coloured non-slip mats. They stand out and provide good contrast to make things more visible, for example a white cup set on a red mat can be easier to see. They also provide grip on both sides and are perfect for using on the kitchen work surface or any table. These non-slip mats ensure that anything laid down on them does not move about, for example, a dinner plate while eating.
3) USB talking book players
The USB talking book player is a firm favourite with our members, many of whom struggle to read due to their sight loss. This easy to use machine plays talking books or music from a USB stick. The machine has bright yellow buttons and works like an old tape recorder, making it easy to use. It has a rechargeable battery, which is useful for moving around the home or taking into the garden. A USB stick can hold a number of books, which saves inserting a new stick each time. The USB sticks are delivered to members from an audio library. Our members love these machines because they are so easy to use and they are able to enjoy their favourite authors again.
4) Talking clocks
The Communiclock is an easy to use talking clock. The clock speaks the time in a loud, clear voice, activated by pressing one large button on the top. By holding down the button, the clock will also tell the day of the week and date. This piece of equipment enables our members to tell the time without having to ask others and is important for maintaining independence. Some members live alone, so knowing what time to eat and take medication is extremely important.
5) Talking watches
Sight Scotland Veterans issue many talking watches to our members to enable them to know the time wherever they are. The watches are available in ladies and gents styles. The clock faces are large and bold. The voice is activated by pressing one button. The watch is radio controlled and automatically updates when the seasons change. This is a real benefit to our members, as it saves them having to try to change the watch themselves.
6) Freedom Portable desk lamp
Lighting is so important when you have a visual impairment. This portable light has a handle and can easily be transported from room to room. LED bulbs provide excellent illumination and are energy efficient. The light is rechargeable and so easy to use. It is popular with our members due to the improvement this light can make to reading or seeing the food on a plate.
7) Various types of hand held electronic magnifiers
We provide various electronic magnifiers to members when using a conventional magnifier becomes a bit difficult. Hand held magnifiers are great to take shopping or use to read a menu when out for dinner. There are a variety of different styles and sizes. They are all rechargeable and all have a contrast button, which enables the user to change the colour of the text – for example, white text on black background. The magnification can be increased or decreased depending on level of vision. These magnifiers really do help our members maintain their independence and they are so lightweight and portable – they can use them anywhere.
8) Travelbright rechargeable LED folding pocket light
This light folds down to size of a mobile phone and easily fits into a pocket or handbag. It has LED lights with settings to change the brightness. It is an ideal little light for using when you are out, and is especially good in places like restaurants when the lighting can often be quite poor. The light is also useful for seeing the keyhole in a door, which many of our members struggle to do due to their sight loss.
9) Daylight bulbs
As well as task lighting like portable desk lamps, it is extremely important that all lighting levels are maximised. New light bulb regulations mean that we are now using low wattage and high lumen bulbs. The higher the lumen, the brighter the bulb. The Sight Scotland Veterans rehabilitation team now recommend the 15watt, 1521 lumen LED bulb. If this bulb is used, it can maximise the light in a room without costing a lot to use. It is important to someone with a visual impairment that lighting levels are maximised, but also controlled. Artificial light can be controlled using a dimmer switch, and natural light can be controlled with vertical or venetian blinds.
10) Desktop electronic magnifiers
These magnifiers have larger screens than the hand held electronic magnifiers. This allows the user to view more text on the screen at once. This makes reading much more fluent and less frustrating. Some of the magnifiers are portable and fold away, but our bigger video magnifiers, which we also call CCTV readers, will need to sit on a table or desk. The magnifiers have a built-in camera that projects the text onto a screen. There is a contrast feature that enables you to change the colour of the text, and some of them come with built-in speech.
Our members are able to read their own letters and correspondence with these magnifiers, helping them to maintain their independence. They can enjoy reading a newspaper again or even a book.