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7 Ways Low Vision has Affected My Everyday Life

life changesLindsyComment

Last week, I wrote about the decline of my vision and learning that I have a hereditary disease called optic atrophy. Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people what exactly is wrong with my eyesight. For most people it’s a retinal problem, whereas I have issues with my optic nerve. Most people can see well with correction, but I can’t. Since I can make my way around without glasses pretty well (as long as I’m not driving), people sometimes don’t quite understand where the problems lie. Am I nearsighted or farsighted? I think it’s all a bit more complex than that, and I’d like to tackle it in a later post. For now, though, I’ve created a list of the way my vision problems show up in everyday life.

Driving has become both a chore and a privilege.

  1. Driving has become a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I’m glad that I can still drive at all. I’ve been driving myself around since I was sixteen, and to have that taken away would be hard to grasp. On the other hand, the act of driving has changed a lot for me. I can’t drive at night. It’s hard to tell the difference between red and green lights (I look at their position instead of their color). Living is the age of GPS is something I'm incredibly grateful for, since it makes navigating unfamiliar areas so much easier. I’ve always been a cautious driver, but now I’m extra-cautious. Because what the majority of people can see from fifty feet away, I can only see from twenty feet away. Since my vision has changed gradually, this adjustment wasn’t something I noticed very much. When I think back on what driving was like for me ten years ago, though, I’m kind of amazed at how easy it seemed. However, I don’t actually recall all of that clearly, which leads us to…

  2. I don’t remember what having 20/20 vision was like. Sure, I can think back on how I used to be able to see a classroom presentation from the back of the room, or use a laptop in my actual lap (!), but I don’t remember the clarity of my vision. My husband might point to something out in the distance, and I feel surprised that he can see it, because I don’t remember what normal vision can do.

  3. Overhead menus are my worst enemy. Note to coffee shops, cafes and the like: Please always have a paper menu prominently displayed in your establishment. Panera Bread succeeds at this, Starbucks does not. I can’t read those overhead menus. I’m guessing I’m not the only one, either. If I’m with someone, I can ask, but that is really tedious, and it makes my skin prickle that I have to stand there and listen to my mother or friend recite soup and sandwich options. I have also been known to pull up the menu on my smartphone so I can place my order, but it’s not a perfect strategy. So please, stick some paper menus in a stand. I know they’re not earth-friendly, but most people just put them back after looking anyway, so it all works out.

I use the Magnifier when working on the computer these days.


4. Using the computer is literally a pain. A few months ago I was prescribed eight weeks of physical therapy because of neck pain. I’d been dealing with a shooting pain from neck to elbow and one day it peaked to the point of near-immobility. While I might be able to place some of the blame on picking up a toddler multiple times a day, the real reason was that I was straining forward to read my computer screen. After that, I finally faced the facts and got real about my needs. I started using the Magnifier (docked at the top of my screen), asked for a wider monitor at work, and I do my best to keep my posture in check. This was another situation where my vision changed slowly and I didn’t realize what I needed to work better. I do have to add that technology is my friend. I can zoom in on my mobile devices and customize the size of the text when reading ebooks. These features make my life easier.

5. If I’m in a big crowded area, I might lose sight of my companions. Taking note of what Stephen is wearing is routine now, because it’s the easiest way to spot him later. My blurry distance vision just can’t distinguish faces that well. This also means I’ll need to be extra vigilant when watching Hunter at the playground, and if he ever plays sports, I probably won’t be able to follow him on the field/court/rink.

6. Big screen TVs are the only way to go. Not that I would advocate for watching a lot of television, but when I do, a big screen is always better. I’m used to our gigantic 54-inch tv by now, and when I encounter say, a 19-inch, I’m appalled at how little of the show I can actually make out. It’s Blurrytown for sure. I used to love watching French movies, something I did often when Stephen and I first started dating eight years ago. Now subtitles make my stomach turn a bit at the amount of work involved, for something that should be a relaxing activity. The same goes for watching a presentation or reading song lyrics off the screen at church. Unless I sit up front (which I do a lot more of now), I can’t make out the words or images.

Lucky for me, colored pencils are labeled with their names.

Lucky for me, colored pencils are labeled with their names.

7. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to teach my own kid about colors. In fact, I’ve even thought about putting labels inside some of my clothes so I know I’m grabbing the navy shirt and not the black one. Shopping online is often easier than shopping in a store if I’m trying to color-coordinate fabrics, because the color is listed in the description (not to mention the convenience of keyword searches). Standing in HomeGoods, trying to decide if the rug I’m looking at is  pale pink or gray? Not fun. I take solace in the fact that many things in life are always the same color: red stop signs, blue skies, yellow daffodils. These are things I can share with my son. (The human mind is so interesting. Once I know what color something is, I can clearly see it as that color. I need to learn more about this.)