How to Read With Low Vision 

People with low vision often struggle with reading due to eye conditions such as glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, and macular degeneration. 

There are several low vision aids and devices that can make reading easier and more comfortable. 

Aside from low vision aids and devices, there are many strategies for making reading easier. By finding the right combination of low vision devices and strategies, those with low vision can have a more enjoyable reading experience.

Contact one of IALVS’s low vision eye doctors to learn more about low vision aids and glasses and to discover strategies to help you cope with vision loss.

Low Vision Devices for Reading

Reading Magnifier

Hand-held reading magnifiers are the most common visual aid for reading.

Magnifiers with the appropriate power enable people with low vision to read the text on medicine bottles, food labels and oven dials, among other things. Magnifiers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as compact pocket magnifiers, full-page illuminated magnifiers, and magnifiers with adjustable supports.

While magnifiers can help you read small text or see details up close, they are not ideal for reading continuously, such as from a book or newspaper. They are most effective for shorter periods of time, such as when reading a menu.

Keep in mind that the bigger the magnifier, the weaker it is. The power markings on magnifiers aren’t standardized, so two magnifiers marked “3x” might not be the same.

Your IALVS low vision optometrist will recommend the right magnifier for your vision, needs and lifestyle. 

Video Magnifier

Video magnifiers, also known as closed-circuit television (CCTV), are devices that use a camera and a monitor or television screen to magnify text or objects. With a magnifying power of 50X or greater and improved contrast, they are useful for people with low vision.

Portable Electronic Magnifiers

Portable electronic magnifiers, also called digital magnifiers or handheld electronic magnifiers, resemble tablets or iPads.

They include an LED screen that allows you to magnify text or objects by holding the device in front of them. 

These magnifiers are portable and can be easily carried around, making them a convenient tool for people with low vision.

High-Power Reading Glasses

People with low vision who must read fine print can use magnifying reading glasses, also known as “microscope” glasses. By magnifying the print size, these eyeglasses make reading newspapers and books easier and more enjoyable.

Tele-Microscopic Glasses

Tele-microscopic lenses are a type of prescription eyewear designed to help people with low vision see better. They are mounted on a telescope-like device that sits on top of the person’s glasses. These lenses can be prescribed for one or both eyes and can be customized to meet the specific needs of the patient.

Also known as a “reading telescope”, this device enables users to read, write, use computers, and do other tasks from a comfortable distance.

Although slightly heavier than microscope glasses, they are more versatile and offer a greater reading distance, which some people prefer.

Additional Tips for Reading Despite Low Vision

Increase Contrast

It’s easier to read when the text stands out from the background. One way to do this is by using high-contrast colors, like black text on a white background. 

Some electronic screens let you adjust the contrast, so we encourage you to choose the color combination that works best for your vision needs. For example, you could use black text on a yellow background or black text on a white background.

In newspapers, grey text is usually printed against off-white backgrounds, resulting in low contrast.

Improve Lighting

Good lighting can help you read more easily and comfortably. 

Make use of direct lighting, such as a gooseneck lamp: This type of lamp has a flexible neck that you can adjust to shine light directly on your reading material. It’s best to use a gooseneck lamp with a low-strength bulb to reduce heat and improve lighting.

Take advantage of natural lighting: If you can, sit near a window while reading to get natural sunlight. This can be especially helpful in the daytime.

Large-Print Books or Larger Fonts

Reading large-print books is easier and more enjoyable because they have larger fonts, better contrast, and more spacing.

Adjust Settings on Your Smartphone

Smartphones have special settings for people with low vision. These include larger lettering and the ability of the phone to read texts aloud.

While it can take some time to find what works best for you, there are ways to make reading easier if you have low vision.

Contact one of IALVS’s low vision optometrists near you to learn about the different aids and devices that can help maximize your remaining vision and help you read so you can live your best life, despite low vision.