The Unique Challenge of Low Vision
By Edgar Facemyer, Chair
The Low Vision Committee of PCB recognizes that many of those who are considered to be persons with low vision find it difficult to convey to the general public an idea of what they can and cannot see or when they need assistance from a sighted person or when they can accomplish a task independently. Consider, for example, a person with low vision who needs assistance filling out a health history form in a doctor’s office or an on-site job application. These types of situations can pose problems for many persons with low vision if they are perceived to have more vision than they actually have. The point is that as long as a person with whatever degree of sight loss they have can function independently, all is right with the world. On the other hand, if their sight loss poses a barrier to accomplishing a task or creates misunderstanding with those with whom they are interacting, the world can become somewhat chaotic. Persons who are totally blind, no doubt, struggle with misunderstanding by the general public, but in a different way.
Almost everyone who has good eyesight has been in a situation where there is either no light or very little light available for them to function comfortably. They may even close their eyes and try to accomplish a simple task such as using a key to unlock a door. These situations may affect them emotionally in many different ways, and until they open their eyes or get enough light, one could say they have experienced what it is like to be blind. Because low vision is caused by many different medical conditions and because the type of vision loss is different for each low vision person, the level of ability to function independently and comfortably in a given situation varies significantly. This is what makes it so difficult to define low vision.
Our committee is looking into various strategies and information we can share with individuals with low vision and the general public that we hope will help demystify some of the misconceptions surrounding low vision. We believe that there are many times in the life of persons with low vision when they find themselves in a situation where they wish they could easily convey to a family member, friend, acquaintance, or even someone they have just met, at least some understanding of how their loss of sight affects them on a daily basis. There are many strategies persons with low vision can employ to aid in educating the general public about low vision. We will be glad to share some of these ideas with you. All you have to do is contact us with any questions, comments or ideas that you may have and we will be more than happy to get in touch with you. Please reach me at 610-647-3365 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Low vision tip: Learn to think in patterns. For example, think of the numbers of a telephone touch pad in this way. The number 5 is surrounded in a frame-like pattern by every other number except 0. This allows you to locate numbers by their position, not by straining to actually see each number.