Martha and Ken were married for more
than 45 years when Ken began showing signs of multiple
sclerosis. As the disease progressed and his caregiving
needs increased, Martha found her own health status
changing. She was having more difficulty breathing and
she began to notice a decrease in her vision. Over the
next two years, Ken became confined to a wheelchair and
Martha was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease) and put on daily oxygen. Her eyesight
continued to deteriorate to the point of near blindness.
She was no longer able to drive, read the mail, see
recipes or the print on prescription bottles. Photos
were blurry, bills were late and Martha was unable to
manage her correspondence or even read her Bible. Her
world had sharply narrowed and depression quickly set
in. How was she going to safely care for Ken without her
sight? There was turmoil in their lives and they
were at risk of losing their independence!
social worker was referred to Martha and Ken to make a
visit and assess their current needs. The social worker
then set up a home visit with a low vision specialist to
meet with Martha. He was able to offer her support,
education and an opportunity to try some video
magnifying equipment to enhance her remaining vision.
The results were astonishing! A month later, Martha
revealed, with tears in her eyes, that she had been
given her life back. The desktop video magnifier she
purchased had allowed her to once again read the
newspaper, see her mail, write out checks for their
bills, understand the words on medication bottles, work
puzzles, string beads for her jewelry hobby and even
clearly see the photograph of her new great grandchild.
She boasted how she was now able to read three hours a
day and had gained a new lease on life. The positive
impact on her ability to care for Ken was becoming
obvious as she set up his pillbox, reviewed his medical
insurance forms and then prepared his favorite dessert
Low vision can vary with each individual and
may be a result of a birth defect, eye injuries, the
aging process or diseases such as macular degeneration
or diabetes. Age-related macular degeneration, for
example, is the leading cause of central vision loss in
people over age 55 and accounts for more than 45 percent
of all low vision cases.
technology have now allowed those with low vision the
opportunity to “see” again. The goal of producing high
quality video magnifiers is to help those with low or
diminishing vision to remain independent and active.
They are mostly used for reading, but can also be used
for writing, viewing maps or even filling a syringe.
Video magnifiers are a step beyond the hand magnifier,
which allows only a few words to be seen at a time vs.
whole sentences, paragraphs or columns. Words or photos
are magnified from two to 50 times their original size
in comparison to the handheld magnifier that generally
offers only 15 to 20 times magnification.
The video magnifier is its own
television system (closed-circuit television – CCTV).
The most common type is intended for use on a desktop or
other work surface. Printed material, photographs or
objects are placed under a camera and the magnified
image is displayed onto a television screen or computer
monitor. The user can then magnify and focus the image
until it is large enough to be clearly seen. The entire
unit can be controlled with a single button and can be
customized to meet each person’s needs. Color and black
and white viewers are both available; however, more
specific information is received from the color viewer.
An orange fruit, for example, can be clearly identified
in color, yet in black and white it looks like a ball.
Other vision enhancing products that are available are
computer magnification software, hand-held pocket
electronic magnifiers, and other products for accessible
scanning and reading.
Magnifying machines may be the best
kept secret for improving low vision. They have been on
the market for over 20 years, yet are not widely sought
after. One initial deterrent may be the price, but the
benefits can far outweigh the cost. A new machine may
cost from $1000 to $3000, but resale options are very
positive. The price depends on the quality of the image,
flexibility of the magnification, size of the screen,
ease of use and extra features. In some states, county
programs will contribute payment toward a video
magnifier for clients, especially if it will help them
remain independent at home. Payment support may also be
attained through state agencies such as the State
Services for the Blind, personal savings, bank loans,
Lions Clubs or financial gifts from family
Many benefits can be achieved with a
desktop video magnifier. These include independent
living, management of personal affairs, increased
knowledge and safety, and the ability to continue in
one’s job and career. Some people are even able to have
a machine at home and at their office to maximize their
visual success in both settings. Those who benefit the
most seem to be caregivers with low vision and single
individuals that have to totally rely on themselves for
safe and independent living.
do caution potential buyers that the video magnifier may
not work for everyone due to variances in visual acuity
or multiple disabilities. It is strongly recommended
that an individual tests a machine or takes advantage of
a short trial at home before making a purchase. As a
general guide, if someone can read the largest headline
in the newspaper, then a video magnifier is likely to be
of use to them.
Low vision no longer has to keep
people from enjoying the activities they once took for
granted. It can clearly be seen that caregivers and
others with limited vision can receive daily benefits
when their world is magnified!
Advances in vision
technology have produced the potential for significant
life changes with the use of video magnifiers.
Experience life again through “new eyes!”
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