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Low Vision Basics

You don’t have to know everything. But, it will be helpful to you and your group members if you are aware of the general meanings of common terms.

Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Tasks completed on a daily basis like dressing, bathing and eating, both inside and outside the home.

Assistive Technology

Also called “adaptive technology,” assistive technology is any equipment, software program or product that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a person with disabilities.  For people with vision loss, these devices can include video magnifiers or closed circuit TVs (CCTVs), software programs that magnify or read aloud text on computer screen and scanners that provide audio output of scanned documents (text-to-speech or optical character recognition).

Second Sense has several training options for assistive technology available for your group members.

Braille

Braille is a system of raised dots that are arranged in “cells.”  Each cell is a group of six braille dots arranged in two columns of three dots each. An entire braille cell fits under a fingertip allowing braille to be read with the touch of a finger.

Each braille cell corresponds to a single letter, a combination of letters (such as “ing”), a word, a number or a punctuation sign.

Braille is an option that can increase independence around the home and is useful for taking down phone numbers, creating labels and recording other important notes.

Functional vision loss

How vision affects the ability to complete everyday tasks like reading, personal care, moving in one’s environment.

Human Guide

People with vision loss often benefit from assistance to walk safely and efficiently in unfamiliar or difficult-to-navigate environments, such as dark restaurants, crowded sidewalks or airports. Human Guide is a set of techniques developed by orientation and mobility experts to help a person with vision loss walk with a guide safely and efficiently.

Training in this technique is available from Orientation and Mobility instructors and Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist. Second Sense can offer this training to your group if you are in the Chicago area. You can also print out our Human Guide tip sheet and Human Guide large print handout and watch our training video on basic human guide techniques.

Guide Dog (or Dog Guide)

Generic terms for service dogs trained to guide people with vision loss. Seeing Eye dogs are guide dogs from The Seeing Eye school.

Guide dogs go through rigorous training, beginning with learning socialization skills as a puppy and advancing to learning the skills they will need to guide their visually impaired partner.

Some of the skills guide dogs learn include:

  • Leading a person in a straight line from point A to point B
  • Stopping for changes in elevation, including curbs and stairs
  • Avoiding obstacles in their path, including overhead obstacles like tree limbs
  • Ignoring distractions
  • Intelligent disobedience: disobeying a command that is unsafe like stepping into oncoming traffic.

The person with vision loss and the guide dog are a team. The person determines the route to the destination and the dog guides them there safely.

Low Vision Examination

A low vision exam is different from a normal eye exam given by an optometrist. This exam, usually provided by a low vision specialist (also an optometrist), is used to determine how the visual impairment affects daily life and which tools can enhance remaining vision. Instead of using a standard eye chart, the low vision specialist will use portable charts and a device called a “trial frame” that is worn like a pair of glasses to measure visual ability. The doctor may ask questions related to how a patient sees in certain situations – going from light to dark, traveling at night, in social settings, etc. The specialist may also ask questions concerning the patient’s ability to manage everyday tasks like dressing, cooking or reading to determine level of function so recommendations can be made for specific tools to  manage these tasks.

Low Vision Specialist

A doctor of optometry or ophthalmology who specializes in the examination and treatment of low vision that is not correctable with standard eye glasses. This doctor will assess a patient’s current functional vision and prescribe devices to enhance vision.  This doctor also provides training and will refer patients for further rehabilitation training to manage everyday tasks.

Orientation and Mobility Specialist

A vision rehabilitation professional who specializes in teaching people with vision loss how to travel safely and independently.

O&M training usually, but not always, involves the use of the long cane. There are a variety of skills and techniques that facilitate safe travel. An O&M instructor teaches the student to focus on and accurately interpret sensory information available in the environment.

Orientation is the ability to know where one is, where one wants to go and how to get there. To do this a person learns to create and maintain a “mental map” that changes as he or she moves through space, using landmarks and environmental clues to supplement whatever vision the person has. Depending on the student’s goals, teaching can include:

  • human guide techniques,
  • walking up and down stairs,
  • finding dropped objects,
  • moving safely through an indoor environment,
  • planning a travel route,
  • using traffic patterns to cross streets, and
  • traveling on public transportation

Video Magnifier/CCTV

Video magnifiers, often called CCTVs or even reading machines, are a great tool of independence. These systems use a stand-mounted or handheld video camera to project a magnified image onto a video monitor, television screen or computer monitor. There is considerable versatility in types of video magnifiers available, including portable ones that can be carried with you.
Second Sense has a variety of video magnifiers on display in our product center that you or your group members can try out. We can also arrange a workshop on magnification and bring some of these magnifiers out to your support group.

Vision rehabilitation

The field of training that teaches a person how to adjust to vision loss and continue with the daily activities.  Vision rehabilitation is best when provided by a trained professional — a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT).  Cody Froeter is Second Sense’s CVRT.

Vision rehabilitation therapist

A vision rehabilitation therapist is specially trained to teach people with vision loss how to safely complete daily living tasks using adaptive techniques and assistive technology so a person can remain independent.  Areas of instruction include:

  • Communication skills: reading, handwriting, braille, recording skills, computer access;
  • Personal care: grooming, clothing organization, medication management
  • Home management: organizing an labeling, home repairs, financial management
  • Activities of daily living: cooking, cleaning, shopping, money organization
  • Leisure and recreation: crafts, sports,
  • Travel: orientation in different environments, moving safely indoors and outdoors, using a white cane, public transportation, human guide technique;
  • Counseling: emotional and practical support for the individual, family and friends on adjusting to vision loss.

Visual field

Visual field is the area where objects are seen when eyes are in a fixed position.

White cane

The white cane is a tool used for safe and independent travel.  A secondary function is to identify the user as a person with vision loss.

Tactile information the user receives from the cane helps to avoid obstacles in one’s path, detect drop-offs and changes in surfaces like carpet to tile.  Specialized training from a certified orientation and mobility specialist in its use provides a way for a person with vision loss to safely travel through a variety of indoor and outdoor environments.  State laws vary, but in general, cars are to yield the right-of-way or come to a total stop when a person using a white cane is crossing a street.