We’re raising awareness and offering free online workshops and seminars for Low Vision Month again this February. To offer some helpful information for those who suffer from low vision during the month, one of our licensed and certified Low Vision support Specialists, Beata, has put together low vision facts we would like to share:

Light and Glare in Low Vision

Glare is a common issue for those who suffer from low vision and understanding the different kinds of glare is valuable for determining how to adjust to it.

Some quick information on glare:

Two forms of glare are Discomfort Glare and Disability Glare. One or both forms may exist alone or simultaneously.

  • Discomfort Glare is from light that causes visual discomfort, eye fatigue or headache.
  • Disability Glare is from light that significantly reduces contrast and thus obscures vision, making it impossible to see the object being viewed.

Who is most vulnerable to glare?

  • Individuals with retinal impairment or diseases that cause light to scatter inside the eye are more likely to experience glare.

What causes glare?

  • External sources of glare include bright or misdirected light, unshielded bulbs, viewing angle, glossy paper, and light colored or shiny work surfaces.
  • Glare control is specific to the individual, the task, and the location.

Color & Light in Low Vision Rehabilitation

Eye disease and normal aging can affect color vision.

  • Correct bulb selection for a given task is important because the color of light can make an object appear dull or vivid, and totally change the object’s appearance by making it look a different color than it actually is.
  • The color of light can increase or decrease contrast between objects and their background.
  • Incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent bulbs and Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are light sources made to emit different colors of light.
  • Consumer task lighting bulbs you buy in a store are commonly labeled with a name or a number scale that describes the color of light. Soft White, Bright White, and Daylight or Full-Spectrum are names used to describe warm, medium and cool toned light sources.
  • The Kelvin number scale is a 4-digit number followed by the letter “K.” Lower numbers represent warmer colors and higher numbers represent progressively “whiter” and cooler colors.
    • For example, a Soft White, warm-tone incandescent fluorescent, or LED bulb can have a Kelvin # of 2700K while a Daylight or Full-Spectrum light source that produces a cool-white color can have a Kelvin # of 5000K.
    • Higher numbers represent progressively “whiter” and cooler blue-white colors.
  • We are experiencing the greatest evolution of new lighting technology in several decades. Consumers have more choices and need to better understand the meaning of product labels to make informed decisions about task lighting.
  • Lighting needs are unique to each person and to each task.

Task Lighting for Low Vision

Because normal aging and eye disease reduces the amount of light that reaches the back of the eye, the loss of light can make an object look less distinct and more difficult to see.

Good task lighting is supplied by a lamp fixture that can be placed on a tabletop or next to an easy chair for near tasks such as reading, writing, or handwork.

How is the best task lighting for each person assessed?

  • The task or activity to be done, the location where it’s done and if magnification is also required are factors that impact the style of task lighting that is needed.
  • Other essential factors to be considered are the position of the task light: its direction & distance as well as brightness & color of the light.
  • These factors are interrelated in that they help to control glare and increase contrast for visibility.
  • The most effective lamp fixture designs allow the user to adjust and position the lamp parts to change the level of brightness, and direct the light beam to prevent glare, reflections and shadows.
  • Use table and floor lamps that can be placed nearer to the work surface for reading, writing or handwork. The arm and lampshade on a task lighting fixture should be adjustable to prevent glare, shadows, and to control brightness, especially when using a hand-held magnifier.

General Lighting and Low Vision

General Lighting is typically provided by a ceiling fixture that is too far away from the task, or table and floor lamps made with open-top shades that allow light to escape away from the work area.

General Lighting is used for viewing an overall space for mobility and large objects such as furniture.

However, a good task lighting fixture is designed to point light in one direction onto the work area for up-close activities.

Here are a few general lighting tips:

  • The surface colors and patterns in a room have a huge impact on how well a person may see to locate objects or to move around safely in a space.
  • Avoid floor coverings that have busy patterns that may be confusing.
  • Even lighting without bright and dark spots is helpful and safe, especially in transition areas between rooms and on steps and stairs.
  • Light colored walls and ceiling will brighten a room and reflect more light into the space. Use non-glossy paint to reduce unwanted glare.
  • Furniture should be of a contrasting color to the floor and walls so that it will stand out and be easily identified.

Register now for free Low Vision Month workshops in February!