Simple and Effective Strategies for Coping with Vision Loss

Simple and Effective Strategies for Coping with Vision Loss

Close your eyes. Now go get a soda out of the refrigerator. Are you sure you have the right thing? Maybe you wanted diet and grabbed regular. How do you know without being able to see what you are choosing? Now close your eyes and make dinner, do a load of laundry, or walk to the mailbox. It’s easy to realize how vision loss can impact every aspect of your life.

In the United States, more than 12 million people have vision loss, and the number of people suffering from age-related vision loss is increasing. But does vision loss mean a loss of independence and hope? NO! Some simple strategies and tools can help you optimize the vision you have and continue to live an independent life.

Strategy #1. Use your other senses

Sight is our dominant sense. Usually, it’s our first choice for interacting with our environment. But it’s not our only means for interacting with our surroundings,. We can also get vision from our ears, our fingertips, and our nose.

Hearing.-When reading, you can substitute hearing for vision by listening to audiobooks, which can be just as immersive as digging into a new paperback.

For newspaper readers, use radio or podcasts to follow the daily news. If you have difficulty reading the mail, text-to-speech technology from a phone app or portable scanner/reader can help.

Touch. If you have low vision, it can be difficult to pour water into a glass and prevent overflow. However, something as simple as placing the tip of your finger just inside the top of the glass allows you to use your sense of touch to determine when the glass is full. Just remember to use this strategy only with cold or room temperature liquids; hot coffee or tea require a different solution.

Filing fingernails is a safer alternative to clipping fingernails and relies primarily on touch to evaluate the shape and smoothness of the nail. And with shaving, you can feel coarse beard hair to tell if you achieved a clean shave.

Smell. Our sense of smell can be used to identify spices in the kitchen or differentiate between shampoo and conditioner if they have a different scent. Your nose knows. It can protect you from rotten food that smells bad or a dangerous chemical.

Strategy #2. Make changes to your environment

Remove clutter and throw rugs. We know you have probably heard this recommendation over and over again, but removing clutter truly makes for a safer home. Clutter and throw rugs are tripping hazards and can be particularly dangerous for anyone who has peripheral vision loss or uses any type of mobility aid.

Hold the railing. For people with stairs in their home, it’s important to hold the railing any time you use the stairs. What about when your hands are full carrying laundry downstairs to the laundry room? Consider investing in a durable laundry bag and throwing or pushing dirty laundry down the stairs.

Keep cabinet doors and drawers closed. Make it a habit to close drawers and cabinet doors immediately after retrieving the item you opened them for. Leaving cabinet doors open, while seemingly convenient if you might need something later, can be dangerous for anyone moving through the space and just too easy to forget about.

Install grab bars at the entrance to the shower or tub. The most important safety feature in the bathroom is a sturdy grab bar that you can hold when stepping into the shower or tub. We recommend installing a grab bar that is drilled into the wall or a bathtub safety rail that can be clamped to the edge of the bathtub. Grab bars held by suction cups are more dangerous than having nothing at all, as they can easily pull away from the wall during use.

Never hurry to answer the phone. Running for the phone is a recipe for having a fall. If the phone is located across the room or in a different part of your home, it is okay if the call goes to voicemail. Most important callers will leave a message. You can also consider having multiple handsets for landline phones and placing them in frequented areas of the home.

Strategy #3. Have good lighting

Light is sight.  Lighting plays an important role in completing everyday activities. Proper lighting can make the difference between success and frustration. The two main types of lighting that can be manipulated, in any room and for any activity, are ambient lighting and task lighting.

Ambient lighting. Indirect lighting from windows, ceiling lights, table lamps, and floor lampsis crucial for helping light the environment. Adequate ambient lighting is important for illuminating the areas through which a person moves.

Task lighting. Direct task lighting illuminates materials and objects involved in an activity. Task lighting comes in many forms, including adjustable gooseneck floor lamps, desk lights, under-cabinet lighting, and flashlights.

Vision loss does not have to take away your independence. You can use your other senses and adapt your environment to complete tasks that will enable you to live independently. If you or someone you know suffers with vision loss and you need help, reach out to us at the Spectrios Institute for Low Vision. We help people with vision loss find solutions and live independent, productive lives.


Katrina Stratton is an occupational therapist at the  Spectrios Institute for Low Vision. Katrina helps people reach their goals and live their lives with vision loss. You can call 630-690-7115 to make an appointment.