See what you can do about fading vision

Imagine not being able to see a thing without your glasses – or even with them.

For some people with eye conditions like macular degeneration, glaucoma or cataracts, eyeglasses have their limits. Simple tasks like measuring flour or using a map can be a challenge. Reading may be next to impossible.

That’s where vision aids come in. Most people stricken by eye disease have some sight left. Vision aids are devices that can help you make the most of your remaining vision. Different aids are designed to help with different tasks – whether it’s reading or watching television.

What’s new in vision aids?

Large-print books and magazines have been around for awhile. But as the population ages, more devices are being introduced to help people with failing eyesight. There are tools to help you cook, watches with high-contrast markings or checkbooks with bolder lines. Most people with vision loss could benefit from a mix of aids, depending on their needs.

For reading and up-close tasks
Magnifiers can help you with reading, looking at pictures or diagrams, or checking the small print on a pill bottle or label. They may come in the form of a dome that you place over a map or print, or a handheld magnifying glass. Some are equipped with lights.
Another option is a microscope – a magnifying lens mounted in spectacles or a headband. Special lamps for the sight-impaired can also provide better lighting and contrast for reading or close-up work. To see from afar
Mini telescopes can help you read the menu board at a cafe, watch TV or see the action at a tennis game. You can use a handheld device or a clip-on that fits over your glasses. A more expensive option is a bioptic, special eyeglasses with a telescope built into the lens. Electronic devices
Closed-circuit television lets you display a magazine or book on a video or computer monitor or TV screen. It costs more than a magnifier or telescope, but the magnification is more powerful. You can adjust the size, brightness, color and contrast as well. Other electronic aids can convert text into speech for you. Conversion devices also include talking watches, calculators and scales.

Buying a vision aid

Talk to your eye care specialist about what type of aid would help you most. You can find a wide selection of vision aids in catalogs, low-vision clinics, through organizations for the blind and on online sites.

Low-vision clinics will have specialists who can help you choose what’s best for you. If possible, try out a few aids from different manufacturers before you make a choice. If you know what you want, you may prefer to order a device through a catalog.


American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Healthy Aging. Vision loss and other eye diseases. Accessed: 04/03/2009 National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. Low vision aids. Accessed: 04/03/2009 American Optometric Association. Low vision devices. Accessed: 04/03/2009 Minto H, Optom D, Butt IA. Low vision devices and training. Community Eye Health. 2004;17(49):6-7. Accessed: 04/03/2009