Devices To Help Low Vision

There are many different products currently in the market to assist people with low vision, and more are being developed. Here is an overview of what is available, what it does and what types of vision they can benefit.

Hand Held Magnifiers

Often known as “Magnifying glasses”, hand-held magnifiers come in many shapes and sizes, and provide magnification between 1.5-20 times. Some styles can be folded up for easy transport in a pocket or handbag, and some are equipped with battery operated lights. Hand-held magnifiers may be difficult to use if your hands tire easily or tend to shake.

Stand Magnifiers

Stand magnifiers can be helpful for weak or shaky hands. They are mounted on stands and must sit flat above the page being viewed. These devices can magnify between 2-20 times, and can be moved across the page to see each line. Illuminated stand or hand-held magnifiers can be plugged into an electrical outlet or fitted with batteries.


Monoculars are mini telescopes used for seeing things at a distance. Magnification ranges from 2.5-10 times, depending on the telescope’s size.


Binoculars are similar to monoculars, but allow you to use both eyes to view things at a distance. Many sizes and strengths are available.

Spectacle-Mounted “Magnifiers”

Spectacle-mounted telescopes for distance, or spectacle-mounted microscopes for close-up, can significantly improve visual abilities. These devices protrude from the spectacle frame, and can be used with one or both eyes. When using spectacle-mounted microscopes, objects must be held much closer to your eyes than normal. This type of spectacles are somewhat like bifocals in that they allow a person to switch to the telescope lens for improved distance vision, and back to the spectacle lens for general orientation. These are prescribed by Low Vision Specialists.

Video Magnifiers (CCTVs)

A Video Magnifier (CCTV) uses a stand-mounted video camera to project magnified objects onto a video screen. These devices are very useful for reading, writing, looking at photographs and catalogs, or doing crafts.

Magnification varies with the model and manufacturer. CCTVs are available in black-an-white as well as color models, and come in various sizes. Some include special features such as underlining and shadow masking for easier reading. Others can be used with your personal computer.

Reading Machines With Voice Output

Reading Machines (Scanners with voice output) can be used to transform printed material into spoken words. Type-written text placed on the device’s scanning surface is read aloud. Some devices can be hooked to a personal computer. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software can be used to turn a personal computer into a “reading machine”.

Absorptive Lenses

Absorptive lenses regulate the amount of light transmitted through to the eye, and can often be worn over prescription glasses. By eliminating harmful sunrays, reducing glare, increasing contrast, and helping with the transition between light and dark surroundings, these lenses can increase both comfort and safety.

Other Adaptive Devices

There is an impressive range of adaptive devices available. Devices with large print, high contrast colors or “talking” features that say information out loud are designed to make life easier for people with impaired vision. Other items include talking watches, large print phones, writing guides and magnified makeup mirrors.