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31 May 2023

Daily living: looking through a different lens

Closeup - Woman shopping in supermarket and reading product information. Costumer buying food at the market.

This article was originally written by one of our members, Jo Knight, for Insight magazine.

After being diagnosed with glaucoma 10 years ago, not only did my view of the world change, literally, but the way I worked in the world changed. Suddenly, there were things I could no longer do. However, by adapting, there is still a lot I can do, using aids and common sense.

When my vision changed, I was scared. Fear paralysed me. Meeting others with a visual impairment made me realise I wasn’t alone. They pointed me towards organisations who specialise in sight loss support like RNIB and SARC (Sensory Advisory Resource Centre) who offered support and advice to people in Milton Keynes. SARC trained me in using the long cane, which I initially resisted because I didn’t want to be seen as disabled.

Adapting meant finding what works for me. For instance, I am on four different eye drops, four times daily. An alarm on my phone keeps me on track. I stick coloured duct tape on my drops to differentiate them and I have a system for putting them in. Anything being used is put in the lid of the box I keep my drops in. What’s in the lid hasn’t yet been put in, what’s in the box has.

As a pre-diabetic, I watch my weight, and I photograph the readout on my scales, then enlarge the photo. I do the same in the supermarket—no not weigh myself—I take photos of the shelves where I can’t see the prices. I also use the phone’s magnifier to read labels and menus.
I tie string on my shampoo bottle to avoid washing my hair with conditioner and I squeeze toothpaste directly into my mouth rather than the hit and miss of getting it on to the brush. I write out recipes in black felt tip and keep my dry goods in clear plastic containers so I can see when they’re running low. In my fridge, I put similar items in clear plastic tubs, and in my store cupboard, tins are organised into labelled baskets, so I know where the beans are. I use coloured melamine tumblers, to avoid the danger of broken glass, and I decant cooking oil into a squeezy bottle so I can control how much I use. For hot drinks, I use a liquid level indicator (a small device that fits over the edge of cups or mugs and beeps and vibrates when liquid reaches it), but for cold drinks, I listen, because the sound changes as the receptacle fills, and if I’m worried about spillage, I put the container in a baking tray before filling it. A baking tray (with sides) is also handy for catching crumbs when sweeping them off the table, rather than collecting them in your hand.

My appliances have bumpons (small stick-on tactile dots) to indicate power buttons and camera locations on my laptop and tablet, but I also use the click system for example, on my washing machine, three clicks to the left for darks.

Audio description is a helpful thing on TV, and of course there’s talking books through RNIB (via USB and Alexa), Calibre, and the occasional free trial on Audible.

There are also talking appliances. I have a talking accessible in-home display for my smart meter. Ask your supplier for one. I’m also listed as sight impaired with my gas, electric and water companies so in an emergency, I’m given priority.

There are apps such as Be My Eyes (that use a smartphone camera to get help from sighted volunteers), screen readers (text-to-speech software) and accessibility settings on phones and computers.

Mental Health is important, and socialising helps me. So I’ve joined several social/hobby groups for people with a visual impairment. If your area is lacking such groups, perhaps think about starting one.

People with visual impairments see the world differently and inadvertently become innovators as we navigate through this new way of living.