Meloncauli is a former nurse and anxiety management therapist. She hopes everyone can take something away from her articles.
As I get older, I increasingly respect just how much failing eyesight affects our everyday lives. It can be so irritating when you simply can't see to thread a needle or read instructions when you buy something new. (Why do they print instructions so small?)
Without glasses, my eyesight is poor, and I depend on them enormously for everyday living. This kind of problem affects so many people, from the young to the elderly, and some of us simply don't know that there are aids to compensate for our poor eyesight.
Understand Macular Degeneration
Many of us will have failing eyesight as we get older, but people with eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy have an even harder time as their disease progresses. Blindness will occur in some cases, but for all people with eyesight problems, blurriness is one of the major symptoms. Whether we lose central vision, peripheral vision, or just have plain old bad eyesight, we tend to stop doing certain things in life because we just can't see well enough!
What do you buy someone who has failing eyesight? There is little point in buying gifts for someone if they unable to make use of them, because their eyesight is simply not good enough. Using my personal experience in facing this dilemma within my family, I would like to suggest a few practical solutions that would make very good gifts for those with any sight problems.
Computer Use and Low Vision
When my father was diagnosed with macular degeneration some years ago, I started noticing how many things he stopped doing because of his failing eyesight. He lives alone, is housebound with COPD and is reliant on family and care workers for his everyday needs.
As his vision deteriorated he had a hard time explaining to people that he simply couldn't see very well. He grew impatient and frustrated. He stopped using the Internet which was particularly sad as he got so much pleasure from it. I did some searching on the Internet and found that there are some computers specifically designed for those with low vision. There are also talking computers for the blind.
Buying a whole new computer package was extremely costly because of the the extra benefits of personal software design, very large monitor and keyboard, but my father did get to use the computer for a few more years. Now I realize that just buying a monitor screen magnifier, and specially designed high vision keyboard, could be helpful to so many people.
He tried a keyboard that had bright yellow keys and the letters were much larger than usual. Immediately he could see the keys so much better. It is a USB connected design and compliant with most versions of Windows including Windows 10. The Able Net Keys U See keyboard fitted the bill perfectly.
For those who are blind, you can buy Braille sticker sheets that go over the keys of a keyboard. Low vision sufferers will probably benefit from text to speech software that can read emails, and any other text on the computer.
Reading and Low Vision
My father always had a book on his bedside table for as long as I can remember, but sadly his reading ground to a halt because of his eye disease. He already had a handheld magnifier but it wasn't terribly powerful, so he switched to talking books. A CD player and a talking book is a great gift for anyone with poor vision. You can also buy a strip ruler type magnifier that you place on the line of text in a book you are reading, and these can make wonderful practical gifts.
Large print calendars also make great gifts for those who have low vision, as do good strong reading lamps. It must be noted though that some people with eye disease have glare problems, and this should be taken into consideration.
I found a device on Amazon called the Ezread magnifier and bought this for my father. You simply place the Ezread (like a large mouse), over whatever you want to read, and read it back on your television. It is powered by battery or mains adapter. The bigger your television screen, the greater it will magnify for reading. My father's TV is a 38 inch screen and that magnified around 16x. It did take a couple of weeks for him to get a feel for keeping the magnifier well positioned over text however.
Note: if you are in the UK you can look into getting the local newspaper delivered to a partially sighted person in audio format. You should consult your local disability office for details or ring social services who may be able to help you.
Talking Gifts for Low Vision
I have already mentioned that a disc player and talking books make great gifts, but there are other talking products that my father has found very useful too.
Suddenly, he could not tell the time by looking at his wristwatch, and he had a growing problem with his wall clock. How frustrating it must be to not know what time of day it is! I bought him a talking cube clock, a very large numeral wall clock and he now has a talking wristwatch. At the press of a button on the Reizen cube clock, he can hear the time of day or the date perfectly. It is very compact and the buttons could have been a bit larger but he seemed to find them fine with no problems. It takes 2 AA batteries and these were still going strong a year later!
A talking alarm clock is very useful, and you can even buy talking clocks that tell you the temperature too! I have noticed that these products tend to be rather loud. which can be a good thing too.
Imagine trying to measure something with a tape measure and you just can't see the exact measurement clearly, or taking your temperature with a thermometer and not being able to actually read it! There are talking substitutes for these, and many other simple everyday things that we all take for granted.
My father started having difficulty seeing the writing on packets and tins in his food cupboard. He couldn't see the "use by" dates on food without his magnifier. This was clearly somewhat of a worry to me, and I do encourage him to use his magnifier more. I bought him something called a "talking tin lid" which is very useful. He has ten seconds of talk time to record whatever he wants, and then places it over a can. In this way he can easily identify what is in the tin. Of course sell by dates could also be recorded.
Talking kitchen scales and calculators are also a good practical gifts for anyone with visual impairment. The voice on talking scales tells you what you need to know starting with when the bowl is ready to start weighing.
Phones and Cell Phones for Low Vision
My father was having difficulty seeing the numbers on his telephone and using his cell phone became impossible for him. The telephone is very important in communicating with family and friends and something else we all take for granted. Imagine having a mobile phone and not being able to call or send a text message to someone because your eyesight will not allow it. Buying big button telephones and cell/mobile phones is a great idea for those who are visually impaired. I have shown you some examples on the right.
Miscellaneous Low-Vision Aids
People tend to use their hands more to feel things when they can not see so well, more so with severe eyesight deterioration. You can buy raised stickers or bumps to place on objects. If the person with low vision does not have a color issue, these stickers can be color coded to aid in identification. Mobility shops should sell these visual aids.
My father can not see the writing on his DVD player for example. I color-coded the buttons with traffic light colors. So he has red for stop, yellow (amber) for pause and green for play.
Here are some more ideas for low-vision aids to give as gifts:
- Writing or signature guide - placed on paper these can guide a person where to write
- Playing cards with large bold symbols
- Low vision writing paper which is usually yellow with bold black lines
- Digital bathroom scales with large bold numbers or kitchen scales
- Low vision envelopes that already have bold printed black lines on them for writing an address
- Magnifiers that can be hung around the neck leaving the hands free
- Talking calculators
- Talking money identifier/bill reader - helps to count and pay money
- Digital photo viewer - when photos are simply too small to see
I wasted money on some gifts that my father simply couldn't use, but I hope this article helps to give you some ideas so that you don't make the same mistakes. Buying practical gifts for someone who has low vision can help them keep some of their independence, too.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
meloncauli (author) from UK on October 31, 2012:
Thanks for your comment Linda! I would love laser eye surgery and it's perhaps something I will look to in the not too distant future. I already get frustrated if I misplace my glasses! :)
Linda Chechar from Arizona on October 30, 2012:
These are great ideas to help those with vision issues. I've had vision problems for most of my life. I had Lasik about 7 years ago and it improved my life dramatically, but we never know what we'll be faced with as we age. It is good to know these aids are available!
meloncauli (author) from UK on October 26, 2012:
Thanks billybuc! I hope mine stabilizes! Seeing someone lose their sight slowly is very sad.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 26, 2012:
Really interesting! I have worn glasses since I was five years old, but luckily, my eyesight stabilized about ten years ago, so it isn't getting worse. Great suggestions here!