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Low Vision Services and AMD: Getting the Help You Need

  • Expert Advice
Published on:
Senior adult sitting on a couch and looking at a digital tablet device.

Technology today makes living with low vision easier, experts say.

On a recent BrightFocus Chat, experts from Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington (POB) offered suggestions for how persons living with age-related macular degeneration can get assistance to help with daily life, particularly in a time of new technologies.

Below are excerpts of a conversation between BrightFocus Foundation and Sean Curry, a POB program coordinator, and Belinda Weinberg, OD, a low vision specialist working at one of POB’s low vision centers. 

Headshots of Belinda Weinberg and Sean Curry.

On the difference between low vision and legal blindness

WeinbergLow vision refers to when someone has a vision loss that cannot be improved with conventional glasses, contact lenses, medical treatment, or surgery.

Legal blindness refers to a very specific definition, meaning that you can see 20/200 or nothing better than 20/200 of vision. This qualifies you for certain programs – either state-wide or federal.  But you can have low vision without being legally blind, because even mild or moderate vision loss that may not have reached the legal blindness criteria can impact people’s day-to-day life.

On communication challenges: how to ask for help

Curry:  A lot of the time there’s a huge disconnect [for the patient] because you’re afraid to admit that you have a problem, or you’re in denial that there really is an issue. And even when you do accept it, at first you have no idea how to communicate that with even loved ones, let alone the medical community.

Whenever you go to the doctor, ask your significant other or loved one or a friend to come with you, because not only is it going to reinforce the fact that you’re getting the information that you need to know and you’re asking questions that you need to ask, but it’s also providing the opportunity for your loved one or others to really understand where your vision is.

A lot of times at support group meetings someone will say, “I’m really afraid that I’m going to go blind, and I’m going to let everyone down,” and a lot of the times there’s another group member there that will almost immediately kind of take them under their wing and just say, “It’s tough. It’s not the end of the world. You can still do this, you can still do that, and here’s how.”

New technology, friend or foe?

Curry: The technology today makes living with low vision easier. Many people have iPhones now, and there are so many free different applications that you can use and learn how to use. There’s even VoiceOver, which is made for people who are totally blind to be able to use your iPhone with no problem at all.

Weinberg: Luckily devices today come out of the package with a lot of accessibility features to them. I think there are a lot of ways for people to continue working, to continue reading, doing all the things that they want to and like to do with the use of this technology.

Technology is definitely changing the game for the better, and I think awareness is increasing as well.  We want to make the whole world more accessible.

View the full transcript of the BrightFocus Chat with Mr. Curry and Dr. Weinberg.


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