My vision’s affected every part of my life. That pretty much goes without saying when you’re staring down diopters in the -30 range (my vision doesn’t even really work with the 20/20 scale, that’s how bad it is), but the truism of it doesn’t really hit you until you start to see the minutia of what I do on a day to day basis that might be different from your own life.
Let’s start with the most obvious stuff as pertains to just writing. Larger fonts on PCs are an absolute must, but by and large I prefer to use the magnifier built into most Windows operating systems. It’s not the most ideal tool in the world but it’s pretty damn close to being perfect for my needs. This is something not everybody’s aware of, but you can find it by searching for “Magnifier” in your search bar next to your Start button. It’s super handy. I use the full-screen version at a 300% magnification, then minimize the tool to the taskbar so it doesn’t get in the way.
It’s not ideal for everything – games can be kind of hit and miss with it, unless they can be windowed, in which case it usually works great. But for simple web browsing, video watching, or Microsoft Word (the program I use ten times more than any other), it’s ideal and simple, and doesn’t cost a thing.
I tend to set up my computers to run at slightly larger fonts, as mentioned before, and this is another something people might not be aware of. Check your settings in your browser of choice – usually the font sizes are either under accessibility or advanced options. Going too large will tend to screw with the line placement and text wrapping, so be warned it might look funky.
I don’t tend to read much on paper anymore, unless I’m proofing one of my paperback novels. The reason isn’t so much my vision – you’d be surprised at how great the publishing world is about supplying large print versions of their books – as it is lighting. As mentioned in my previous post, I don’t see light the “right” way anymore and shadows interspersed with light can really screw with my eyes. To that end, I either like to read in full daylight or with the aid of a supremely bright reading lamp angled over the top of my head. This isn’t always feasible, so I tend to do a lot of my reading on my iPad or Kindle, both of which have adjustable font sizes and a relatively high contrast between the font and the “paper.” If you have a low-vision family member with a bit of technical savvy, I cannot recommend one of these two options enough. Sure, we all tend to prefer books on paper, but when the alternative is eyestrain, migraines, or worst of all, no reading whatsoever, then make the smarter choice and go for the tech. I did and I don’t regret it.
The iPad also has a nifty high contrast mode, which reverses the text and the background, so that the font shows up as white and the background black. That’s really handy for nighttime reading, though I do wish the iPad allowed for a greater font size. It’s nitpicky but when your vision is this bad, you want to be able to control your fonts to the greatest extent possible.
For walking, I get by without a cane but I do have a fold-up travel cane I take with me to unfamiliar places when traveling, especially if I’m going to be walking at night by myself. Our little community finally (in 2017!) has corners with dots on the sidewalks to let you know where the sidewalk ends. I tend not to need these, but believe me, when every painted curb looks like it could be a ramp, it’s extremely nice not to come off a curb the wrong way and twist my ankle needlessly. Now I now, “Oh, hey, I can cross here and it’s not going to be a drop.” Again, this is maybe a decade late coming, but we’re also talking about a town that’s just now getting a Redbox, so “behind the times” doesn’t quite do us justice sometimes. We’ve also had an update to our town’s lights, or at least as far as Main Street is concerned, which is a blessing. Being able to see the sideewalks at night isn’t just awesome for the blind, but lends the town a less murderous feel when you’re out and about. Now to just get the residential areas up to snuff so I’m not tripping over the billion potholes. Another battle for another time, I suppose.
Around the house, one of the more useful things I have is sticky dots of various colors for buttons on my microwave and stove. Although my microwave’s buttons are big, they’re not high contrast or particularly easy to define since they all feel exactly the same, so adding dots to the “time cook,” “cancel,” and “start” buttons is a pretty good alternative. Same goes for the stove. I like that my stove has its dials right up front as opposed to near the back – I get that it looks old-fashioned, but it also means I can see the dots and line them up where they need to be.
There are some other little tools I keep around. Gel pens, while a bit messy, tend to write thick enough to make handwriting legible (or would, if my handwriting was legible to begin with). Magnifiers don’t work very well with my glasses for whatever reason, but I have a couple I keep around that do help a little. I keep a largeprint notebook (with extra thick lines) next to my computer for writing minutia. That’s handy, but honestly, unlined notebook paper would probably work just as well.
One note to gamers out there – if you have a PS4, check into your accessibility settings. They’ve been doing some amazing things, including adding a magnifier. It’s not ideal – you can’t control the action and be zoomed in at the same time, so it’s largely limited to games with frequent pauses like JRPGs or text-heavy games. But it’s a fantastic little touch to make things just a little easier. Hell, given how small those fonts are for some games, I’d recommend it even for my well-sighted friends.
For information on where you can obtain most of this type of stuff, contact your state’s Blind and Low Vision (or equivalent) service. At the very least they’ll point you in the right direction, and in a best case scenario, maybe they’ll even pick you up as a client.
That does it for this blog. As always, if you have any questions or comments, fire them off below.