Tips and Tricks to Adapting to Everyday Situations When You Have Low Vision or Congenital Nystagmus

a flower in focus

By Nitie Mehta

I was born in India with Congenital Nystagmus which led to low vision. Unfortunately or fortunately there was no special help offered and I just had to learn to adapt. Here are some everyday tricks I used:

  • Watching Television: Sit closer, it helps make the image larger and clearer. A lot of TV shows can be streamed to a laptop or iPad which can be held close for clearer viewing.
  • Sharing a Book or song sheet: with low vision it is hard to see from the corner of your eye, thus strategically try to get a copy for yourself and do not share.
  • Filling forms or exam papers: Go to a photocopier and make enlarged copies of it or ask the teacher or teacher’s aide to do this.
  • Reading the white board or black board in a class, meeting or conference: Before the meeting or class ask the organizer to send you an electronic copy of the material they plan to present, open it up on your own device and just follow along.
  • Reading the menu in a dim-lit restaurant: Menus are often printed on colored paper and where the lighting is low can be hard to read. If you know the restaurant you plan to go to beforehand look up the menu on your computer and decide what you want before you get there. If this cannot be done, try to find the menu on your mobile device where you can expand the font. If the menu cannot be found beforehand, ask the hostess for the specials and pick something from this.
  • Reading the total amount to be paid on a restaurant receipt because the lighting is too dim or the print is light: Use your phone to take a picture and enlarge it.
  • Reading a menu at a fast food restaurant: Pick one of the pictures on the menu and say, “I will have that” or find the catering/takeout menu. Usually they have printouts of this and pick something from this.
  • Reading labels that are in small print: There are magnifying apps on the smart phone, but in my experience they do not work well. On the other hand, I do love the smart phone camera. Simply take a picture and then enlarge it. I use this for credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, VIN numbers and many more.
  • Need more light: Most smart phones have a flash light app.
  • Too small font on the phone and the pinch does not work to enlarge it: Take a screen shot of the phone and then enlarge the image. How to take a screen shot.
  • Playing board games and reading the cards: Tell a friend to help you read the cards in your ears.
  • Meeting friends late in the night and you do not want to drive: Offer to pay for gas and parking if they carpool.
  • Hemming or fixing a tear: Iron-on hem tape works great and there is no need for a needle and thread!
  • Chopping vegetables: Use a food processor or buy pre-cut vegetables.
  • Enlarging the font on an Outlook email message you received: Press Ctrl and + to zoom. Actually this works on many websites and in most browsers too.

Finally, one thing I realized early on is as much as I wanted to be independent I needed help in some situations, thus I consciously grabbed opportunities to help someone and make them my friend.

The second big lesson was to accept that I had low vision and it is ok to tell someone that I cannot read and I need help.

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