Savvy Senior: Help for the visually impaired |

Savvy Senior: Help for the visually impaired

Dear Savvy Senior:

I recently saw one of your segments on the Today show on low-vision reading tools and wanted to get more information on some of the items and programs you talked about. My wife has macular degeneration and loves to read but needs assistance. Can you let me know what’s available to help her now, and any other programs or services that can help us in the future as her vision deteriorates? – Looking for Help

Dear Looking:

There are lot’s of tools and resources available today that can benefit people with vision impairment. It’s estimated that more that 7 million Americans age 65 and older suffer from some form of low vision. Here are some things you should know.

Vision Impairment

The terms “low vision” or “vision impairment” are defined as the inability to see clearly even when wearing eye glasses or contact lenses. Along with normal aging vision changes, which usually can be corrected, the four most common age-related eye diseases are macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy. If you suffer from low vision, here are some tools and resources that may be able to help you.


As the eyes age, the pupils gets smaller, and the need for more light becomes necessary to see well. There are dozens of companies that offer high-quality, glare-free lights, lamps and magnifying lamps that can make a big difference.

Here are three good resources to visit:

— The Daylight Company:, 1-866-329-5444.

— Ott-Lite:, 1-800-842-8848.

— FirstStreet:, 1-800-704-1209.

Low Vision Helpers

There’s a variety of low vision aids that can help people maintain and even improve quality of life. Here are some different tools and resources to consider:

— Magnifiers: There are many different types of magnifying lenses that can help with reading and hobbies. Two other magnifying tools to know about; the VideoEye, a low vision reading machine that magnifies printed text onto a computer monitor or television screen,, 1-800-416-0758. And for computer users, WebEyes, a software product that allows you to increase the type size on any Web site for easier viewing,, 1-800-983-6397.

— Low vision aids: These include talking and/or oversized clocks, watches, remote controls, telephones, caller IDs, writing aids, thermometers, thermostats, computer equipment and more. You can find low vision aids and magnifiers by going on-line and typing in “low vision products” into your search engine, or see the savvy resources listed below.

— Large print publications: For easier reading see The New York Times large type weekly,, 1-800-631-2580. And, the Readers Digest large type monthly publication,, 1-800-807-2780.

— Talking books and magazines: Here are some free services for people who can’t see to read. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped,, 1-800-424-8567. Choice Magazine Listening,, 1-888-724-6423.

Savvy Resources

–American Foundation for the Blind: Offers information, resources and links to programs and services that can help people with low vision better manage their daily activities. Visit or call 1-800-232-5463.

— Lighthouse International: Provides information, rehabilitation services, educational materials and low vision products. See or call 1-800-829-0500.

— Ears for Eyes: A nonprofit public charity that provides free audio cassette lesson tapes that teach adaptive daily living skills to the vision impaired and their caregivers. Call 1-800-843-6816 or visit

— National Association for Visually Handicapped: A nonprofit health agency that offers information, referrals to low vision services and products, and a free large print loan library. Visit or call 1-888-205-5951.

— Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation: Provides helpful links to low vision resources. Visit or call 1-800-807-2780.

– Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a regular contributor to the NBC “Today” Show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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