Low Vision Devices: An Overview
Optical Devices or AidsThe two most common low vision devices are magnifiers for seeing objects close at hand (known as near viewing) and telescopes for seeing objects far away (known as distance viewing). Many children with visual impairments may not realize that fully sighted children and adults use optical devices at times. Many people use magnifiers to read directions printed in very small print or binoculars when they go to sporting events. It’s important for your child to understand that optical devices aren’t just for people with vision loss so that he doesn’t think that using these helpful devices is highly unusual and makes him different from other people. That said, there are differences between the low vision devices your child will use and those you might buy at the store for your own use as a fully sighted person. Low vision devices for people with vision loss are prescribed by an eye care professional. Because of your child’s unique visual abilities and needs, the low vision devices he uses need to be prescribed specifically for him. People with visual impairments have particular needs that can be determined by a clinical low vision evaluation, conducted by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, which can indicate the devices able to maximize your child’s use of vision. Optical devices or aids use lenses or prisms to magnify, reduce, or otherwise change the shape or location of an image on the eye’s retina. Optical devices may be held in the hand, rested on a base or stand, or be placed in a pair of eyeglasses. A video magnifier, also known as a closed-circuit television (CCTV), is a high-tech low vision device that electronically enlarges print or other material and projects it onto a monitor. The cost of optical devices varies from less than a hundred dollars for some handheld magnifiers to several thousand dollars for typical video magnifiers. Your child’s school system may provide optical devices at school but not for use at home. If a low vision device has been prescribed for your child, it may be helpful to check with your insurance company to see if optical devices are covered as part of your insurance plan. If your child needs a device that is not provided for home use by the school system or covered by your insurance, you might consider approaching a community service organization to explore whether they can assist in paying for your child’s device.
Near-Vision Optical DevicesNear-vision optical devices are primarily used for tasks within arm’s reach, such as reading, writing, self-help tasks such as polishing one’s nails, and art projects such as drawing. Examples of these devices include:
- Handheld magnifiers
- Stand magnifiers
- Bar magnifiers
- Illuminated magnifiers
- Mirror magnifiers for putting on makeup or other self-care tasks