Living Boldly With Low Vision
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass… it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”~Vivian Greene
Living with low vision is a challenge that more and more people are experiencing. Aging often leads to vision changes, but conditions such as Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, and Glaucoma are making life with low vision more and more prevalent.
Most people get the majority of their information through their eyes, but what happens when your vision is not reliable? You have to learn other strategies to maximize your vision and other senses to truly live with low vision. Too many people think it is not possible to live and thrive with low vision, but it is!
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”~St. Francis of Assisi
There are really seven key things needed to live successfully and effectively with low vision.
- Have a positive can-do attitude. This is by far the most important thing in living with low vision. Understanding that you are not alone, that many others have and are currently walking this same journey, and that you can do it is critical to your ability to cope with and develop strategies.
“But what if I fail of my purpose here? It is but to keep the nerves at strain, to dry one’s eyes and laugh at a fall, and, baffled, get up and begin again.”~Robert Browning
The following are four practical techniques and tools to live with low vision.
- Organization: We all put things down, and sometimes we actually put those things in a designated place where we can find them again quickly. More often than not though we set things down without a thought about organization. If you can see well it is not an issue, as you can usually just visually scan and find it, but when you cannot see well it becomes much more challenging. Everything needs to have a designated place so you know where it is and can easily locate it. Systems are essential. This will save you time and limit frustration.
- Lighting: This might seem like common sense, but so often people just do not have or use adequate lighting. There is no right answer for lighting either. Essentially each individual has to figure out what lighting is best for them. For some glare is a significant issue, while others can see best outside in the sunlight. In addition, you might find that you need certain types of lighting for certain tasks. For example, you may prefer to read with one type of lighting, and to prepare food and cook with a totally different type and placement of lights. Finding the best lighting source and the placement of that lighting based on the specific task takes time and may change, but lighting can make a world of difference.
- Magnification: Bigger is often better—but not always. You can magnify something by moving it closer or using a magnification device, such as a hand-held magnifier. Moving something closer is the first place to start… with the right lighting of course. Now, in regards to magnifiers, do not just go down to your local medical supply or big box store or pharmacy and buy an over-the-counter magnifier. All magnifiers are not created equally. It is really good to see a low vision specialist. You can visit www.TimeToBeBold.org to find an agency to help you get a magnifier that will really help you maximize your vision. But, keep in mind, vision changes often occur and therefore magnification needs to change and utilization of non-visual techniques may prove to be more useful.
- Contrast: Contrast is not a concept that most have considered, but again, a technique that can really make a positive difference in increasing the use of remaining or functional vision. The best way to describe contrast is with examples. Think about pouring coffee into a white or light colored cup, placing a yellow or white stripe at a curb or step, or taking medications (which are often white) over a dark colored mat so if dropped they can easily be located. Finding ways to create contrast in everyday situations takes creativity, but can really result in more safe and effective ways to use your low vision.
- Self advocacy or asking for help: Most people do not like to ask for help. We feel like we are a bother to others or helpless. The reality is that we all need others. In regards to low vision, we just might need a different kind of help. Understanding that it is okay to ask for help, how to ask for assistance, and how to reciprocate are key to becoming a self-advocate. Asking for help also increases your independence.
The best example I can provide is in regards to shopping. I could go to the store and spend hours looking for what I want (and likely ending up with many things that are not what I really wanted), or I can request customer service assistance, provide a list, and shop with a person familiar with where items are and leave the store in a reasonable time with what I need. I can also ask a friend to shop with me, and then take that person out for coffee or lunch to reciprocate their help, even though I know shopping with me is a whole lot of fun too. And, this is just one example.
Don’t let fear or pride get in your way of asking for help. You will likely need more help early in your vision loss journey too, and as you learn skills you’ll probably need less help. But, there is still nothing wrong with asking for help. People have and will continue to ask you for the help you can provide them too… right!
And, finally, this is one you will really need to learn to live a bold and beautiful life with low vision
- Patience: It takes time and patience with yourself and those around you to learn the techniques that allow you to live a full life with low vision. You are learning new ways to do many things. You will need a good sense of humor… for those times when things do not work out as you planned, for when there are spills, etc. Initially it may take longer to do everyday tasks, but as you learn to use low vision techniques and tools you will speed up.
“Life isn’t meant to be lived perfectly…but merely to be LIVED. Boldly, wildly, beautifully, uncertainly, imperfectly, magically LIVED.”~Mandy Hale
Subscribe to the Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. on your favoriate podcast platform to learn more about living a bold and beautiful life with low vision or blindness. And, go live a bold life!
Connecting With Sylvia:
Sylvia Stinson-Perez has spent her career in the blindness field, and is the Chief Programs Officer for the American Foundation for the Blind. Sylvia believes the authentic shared experience of living with vision loss can lead to the development of bold confidence in living with blindness. She loves helping others find their beauty and courage on this journey.
Sylvia has Master’s degrees in Social Work, Visual Disabilities Rehabilitation, and Business Administration. Sylvia is blind as a result of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), however, she believes that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their potential.
Sylvia is a wife, a mother, a friend, an advocate, and a professional dedicated to making a positive difference. She enjoys reading, cooking, travel, crocheting, writing and public speaking, and time with loved ones.
- Note: The photos in this post are of real people across the blindness spectrum who are living their best lives. We are thrilled to be able to present authentic representation of the blindness spectrum through the kindness of these individuals who have lent their photos to Bold Blind Beauty’s new photo repository. These photos fully demonstrate how people who are blind are “Living Boldly With Low Vision.”
- The header image is a photo of Lachi future Woman On The Move, talented Musician, Award Winning Creator, RecordingAcademy Advocacy Chair NY, Founder @Rampd_Up. A still photo from a video of Lachi speaking to the camera after winning Best Music Video at Long Island Film Expo. She’s wearing a multi-colored pastel dress, holding a white cane painted in multi-colored pastel, and holding a golden Statuette.
- Charlie Kramer recently featured as a Man In Motion is one of the most positive life coaches you’ll ever meet. The image is a black and white waist shot photo of Charlie wearing a white shirt and eyeglasses. He’s smiling broadly looking directly at the camera while holding his white cane out in front of him.
- Catherine Harrison is a Bold Blind Beauty contributor and an amazing role model. In this full body shot photo she is wearing a stunning midi cobalt blue dress with white Swarovski braille beading created by Aille Design. Catherine is posing with her white cane in a brightly light room with her head facing away from the camera.
- Brittney Ellis was a Woman On The Move and Monthly Beauty. In her photo Brittney is wearing a black and white long-sleeved shirt dress with geometric designs. She’s paird the dress with over the knee black suede boots and is walking with the white cane down a brick sidewalk.
- The author’s bio photo is a glam photo of Sylvia in a pink dress with spaghetti straps. Her hair is in a fancy updo with a pink flower on the left of her bun.