Everyday people with low vision can struggle with even the simplest of daily tasks: opening the post, reading the paper, even, recognising friends and family on the street.

"Low vision can cause real damage to their independence, confidence and privacy."

Said to occur in all people whose sight problems cannot be corrected with prescription glasses or contact lenses, low vision is most common in older people, and caused by conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and retina problems caused by diabetes. However, it’s also seen in younger people who have a congenital or hereditary disorder of the eye, or who have suffered an eye injury affecting their sight. For both groups, low vision can cause real damage to their independence, confidence and privacy.

 

What are the options for low vision?

 

Following a diagnosis of low vision, in hospitals around the UK an eye clinic liaison officer will be able to recommend a wide range of help and rehabilitation support, including signposting to other services, using technology, and support with the administration.

"Technology can be daunting, but can make a big difference."

According to Louise Gow, the specialist lead for eye health at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), technology has made life a whole lot easier and better for people with low vision. “Accessing technology can be daunting to some people, but once they get to grips with it, they do find it easy to use, and it can make a big difference,” she says.

 

Life-changing speaking cameras

 

Among the technologies to emerge for people with low vision are intuitive wearable devices that use artificial intelligence. One example is the OrCam MyEye device, which uses a tiny camera with a speaker fitted to one arm of a normal pair of glasses to instantly tell the user what the camera can see.

"It can also recognise familiar products as well as people’s faces."

Suitable for people with a wide range of sight loss, including those who can see but with difficulty and those who are fully blind, OrCam MyEye enables people to read printed and digital material in real time. It can also be programmed to recognise familiar products as well as people’s faces, reducing embarrassment or risk of offence in social situations.

Michael Crossland, specialist optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, describes OrCam MyEye device as “a very exciting development in low vision rehabilitation”. He says: "It is great to have a product which enables text-to-speech reading in a real world environment.” OrCam international director Leon Paull adds: “Worldwide, thousands of people use this breakthrough technology on a daily basis and as a result are achieving a much higher level of independence.”