Dialogue Magazine


by Karl Arnold Belser 

(Dialogue Magazine Winter 2003)

I have central vision loss such that I can’t see a person’s head if I looked directly at him from 4 feet away.  This type of vision loss is typical of macular degeneration.

My low vision optometrist recently told me that many of her low vision patients are discouraged and refuse to try any visual aides.  Since I have successfully compensated for my low vision (Dialog Magazine Spring 2003), I am sharing my methods in this article as a motivation for others to try adapting.

I use three aids that are with me all of the time:  A special pair of glasses, a special type of telescope, and a digital pocket voice recorder.  These devices cost $500, $115, and $100, respectively.  I think that $715 is a low price for adaptation to low vision.

I have had general difficulties with glasses because of my central vision loss.  The opticians don’t get the lens spacing correct using their machine.  The result has been that I received glasses that caused me to see double or get a headache.  My lenses look like the bottoms of coke-bottles, which probably makes my glasses sensitive to correct lens spacing.

The correct measurement is easily made by wearing frames with thin plastic sheets where the lenses should be.  The frames usually come with these fake lenses.  The optician can put a dot on the plastic sheet in front of each pupil with a felt pen.  The placement of the dots gives the correct lens center locations.

Next, I have a powerful magnifying lens in the bottom third of my right lens opening.  I use the most powerful magnifier lens available, which is about +24 diopters.  The large diopter lens has a short focus point.  This means that I have to hold whatever I am looking at so close that my nose practically touches the page.  The high magnification allows me to read even small print with my peripheral vision, and it only took me a week of practice to master.  I just laugh with the people who ask me what I’m smelling.

Note that the +24 diopter lens is much stronger than most hand held magnifying lenses, making the print being read very large.  It is difficult to control the spacing of both the lens and the reading material with this high magnification.  So mounting the lens securely on the glasses frame leaves both hands free to hold the reading material at the proper focus distance.

I only put the magnifying lens on one side because I need the peripheral vision looking down to avoid tripping.  Further I can only use one eye at a time because of the very short focal distance.

My second most important aid is an extra short focus telescope.  “Extra Short Focus” is the operative phrase.  It means that the telescope can be focused to about 12 inches away.  This short focus is an absolute necessity for looking at objects in glass display cases in a museum or a store.

The telescopes can be purchased from LS&S.  Call them a 1-800-468-4789 and ask for a catalog.  I currently use a Walters 8x21 model 101-083.  I need the 8X magnification to be able to read the white board from the front row in a classroom, read menu boards at McDonalds and to watch soap operas in bed.  I also want the length of the telescope to be about 3.5 inches so that I can fit it in my shirt pocket with the neck strap around my neck.  Low vision optometrists usually have a wide range of magnifications for patients to try.  Find out what telescope you like, and then order it directly from LS&S from LS&S, Independent Living 800-537-2118, or Ann Morris Enterprises 800-454-3175.  It will cost less.

Lastly, I don’t see well enough to read my own handwriting and it is very hard to print and read using the magnifying lens, so I can’t make written notes to myself.

I use a small solid-state voice recorder for taking notes, the Sony model ICD-P17.  It can record up to 4.5 hours and has a USB computer connection so that I can file the notes on my computer.  There are a large number of voice recorders on the market.  I chose the Sony because it was very thin.  I keep the recorder in my front pants pocket.

II encourage anyone with low vision to try to adapt themselves to their environment as much as possible.  I have described how I adapted to my type of vision loss, but there are techniques to compensate for any condition.  You may have to invent the techniques for your own case as I have done.  So don’t give up.

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Last updated November 11, 2005

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