Low Vision Devices: An Overview
Leer este artículo en español
Children with low vision may
benefit from the use of low vision devices, often referred to as low vision aids, to help them see more clearly. These
devices include a range of items that are optical and nonoptical.
Low vision devices help this student keep up with classwork.
Optical Devices or Aids
The 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 Devices
Near-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 make up or other self-care tasks
The dome magnifier enables this second-grader to see the print clearly.
If your child is prescribed a magnifier, it is important to give him opportunities to use it, not only at school, but at
home and in the community. You might ask him to look up the phone number of the restaurant you're going to and have him call
for directions. Using his magnifier, he can now see the small print in the phone book. Or perhaps you might want to show your
daughter how to apply make-up using a mirror with magnification. And when you are at restaurants, don't read the menu to your
child if he has the ability to read it himself. Instead, encourage him to use his magnifier.
Distance-Vision Optical Devices
Optical devices for distance viewing are also known as telescopic devices. They include handheld monoculars, clip-on
monoculars, spectacle-mounted telescopes, and contact lens systems. These devices are primarily used for distance tasks
beyond arm's reach, such as reading what is on the chalk or white board in a classroom, watching a demonstration in class,
spotting street signs, viewing sporting events, or watching television.
A monocular is a low vision device used for distance viewing in the classroom and in the community. This middle school student with albinism is looking to see if the bus is coming.
There are also some electronic magnification systems that allow the user to aim a camera at an object in the distance and
then view it on a screen. Most of these devices allow the user to view near information as well, similar to the way in which
video magnifiers work. In the classroom, these devices allow a child to see what the teacher is writing on the chalk board
and then to see the book he is working from or the notes he is taking.
Bioptic telescopic systems (BTSs) are specially designed eyeglasses that allow a person with low vision who meets certain
qualifications to drive a vehicle. For some teens, low vision driving
may be possible using a BTS.
As with near-vision optical devices, it is important to encourage your child to use any prescribed distance-vision optical
devices at home and school and in the community. The earlier your child is prescribed these devices and learns to use them,
the more a part of his life they will become.
Nonoptical devices are devices or aids that may be used to help a child use his or her vision more efficiently. They
typically control lighting or improve contrast. Nonoptical devices include sunglasses, hats or visors with brims, reading
stands, dark-lined paper, and black felt-tipped pens.
Instruction in the Use of Optical Devices
Being prescribed optical devices is only the first step in the process of learning to use them efficiently. Training in
how to use a device and continued practice are essential in helping someone feel comfortable with a device and obtaining
maximum benefit from it. Training is typically part of low vision services, which include a clinical low vision examination
and follow-up as well. In addition, your child's teacher of students with
visual impairments and orientation and mobility (O&M)
instructor are knowledgeable about teaching children to use optical devices. If your child is prescribed a device, Individualized Education Program (IEP)
goals for optical device use should be considered by his educational team. In general, your child will be more motivated to
learn to use optical devices if he has functional reasons for doing so, reasons that help him do daily activities that are
important or interesting to him. For example, if he is interested in cars, learning to use his monocular to spot different
types of cars on the street will be motivating for him.