Low vision is a condition that results in a significant reduction in visual ability, impacting various aspects of an individual’s life.
How low vision affects people
The visual reality of a person with low vision is significantly different from that of a person with normal vision. These differences can vary depending on the severity of the low vision, but there are some common characteristics that influence their perception of the world.
- Blurred and hazy vision: one of the most common challenges faced by people with low vision is blurred vision. This means that objects, both near and far, appear blurry or indistinct. This type of visual impairment can make simple tasks such as reading or recognizing faces difficult;
- Difficulty in color discrimination: some people with low vision may have difficulty distinguishing between specific colors, or colors may appear less vibrant. The impact on color perception can range from a mild difficulty in distinguishing similar shades to almost absent color discrimination;
- Adaptation to environments: the environment plays a crucial role in the quality of vision for people with low vision. The brightness and contrast of an environment can greatly influence their ability to see. For example, bright light can cause glare or eye pain, while low light can make vision almost impossible;
- Use of visual aids: to address these challenges, people with low vision often rely on a variety of visual aids. These can include glasses with special lenses, magnifying lenses, filters that improve contrast or reduce glare, and digital assistive technologies such as screen magnifiers or screen reading software;
- Daily adaptation: people with low vision must constantly adapt to perform everyday activities. They may need more time to adjust to new environments or require assistance navigating unfamiliar spaces. Even simple tasks such as reading, using a computer, or crossing the street can require adaptive strategies or the use of aids.
Understanding the visual reality of people with low vision is essential for developing greater empathy and awareness of the challenges they face every day. This awareness can also guide the development of better support solutions and more inclusive environments.
Classification of low vision
The classification of low vision is based on the severity of the reduction in visual acuity and the extent of the visual field. These grades vary significantly, impacting the lives of those who experience them in different ways.
- Mild low vision: in this grade, the individual has slightly reduced visual acuity (visus). The person with mild low vision may have difficulty seeing fine details, but they can generally perform most daily activities without significant aids. This grade of low vision often requires the use of corrective glasses or magnifying lenses for specific activities, such as reading or using electronic devices;
- Moderate to severe low vision: in this category, visual acuity is more compromised. People in this classification often cannot read standard text even with the use of regular glasses and may have difficulty recognizing faces or navigating unfamiliar environments. Aids such as more powerful magnifying lenses or specialized electronic devices may be necessary;
- Severe low vision: this is the most serious grade of low vision, where visual acuity is extremely limited. Individuals with severe low vision may only be able to perceive light, shadows, or movement, but they are unable to see defined shapes. Their ability to perform daily activities independently is significantly reduced, and they often rely on a combination of visual and non-visual aids, such as guide canes or human assistance.
In all of these cases, accurate diagnosis and classification of low vision are essential to provide the appropriate support and aids. The management and adaptation to low vision require a personalized approach, which considers the individual’s specific needs and abilities. This can include evaluation by vision professionals, the use of assistive technologies, and support for the development of independent living skills.
Refractive errors and low vision: Myopia and hyperopia
Refractive errors such as myopia and hyperopia can have a significant impact on low vision, affecting an individual’s visual ability in different ways.
- Myopia and low vision: myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition in which nearby objects are seen clearly, while distant objects appear blurry. In the presence of low vision, uncorrected myopia can further exacerbate the difficulty of seeing from a distance. This can limit an individual’s ability to perform activities that require good distance vision, such as driving or recognizing traffic signs. Additionally, severe myopia can increase the risk of developing other eye complications, which can further worsen vision;
- Hyperopia and low vision: hyperopia, or farsightedness, is characterized by difficulty seeing nearby objects clearly, while distance vision remains relatively normal. For people with low vision, this can complicate activities such as reading, using electronic devices, or any task that requires close-up vision. Hyperopia can also cause eye strain, headaches, and difficulty concentrating, especially when performing tasks that require detailed close-up vision.