Column: Helping to make the best use of sight

Anita Plant, left, and David at the knit and natter group
Anita Plant, left, and David at the knit and natter group
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Thousands of Doncaster people are affected by low-vision, but you can make the best use of poor eyesight if it’s managed properly.

The key is to look at what sight you have left and maximise what you can do with it, as I found when I recently visited a national charity that’s based here in Doncaster.

The Partially Sighted Society at 1 Bennetthorpe, near the town centre, provides information, advice, training, magnifiers and electronic low-vision aids and clear print material for anybody with a visual impairment to help them make best use of their remaining sight.

The Society started 40 years ago and moved into its current specially designed premises in 2012, which include a fully-equipped sight centre where a low-vision service is provided.

Low vision is when your sight can’t necessarily be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. It doesn’t just develop because of old-age, your vision can get worse as a result of other factors like cataracts, age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.

Executive Director Anita Plant gave me a tour of the premises and made the point that many things considered essential by people with normal sight are not designed for people who have a visual impairment. They have sourced a wide range of products to help people, from clocks to playing cards, plus magnifiers, telephones, heavily lined notepaper and large print calendars and diaries.

I met the Society’s knit and natter group, which is run by a lady who is living with sight loss. It meets on the second Wednesday of the month from 2pm – 4pm and aims to encourage those who enjoy crafts and knitting to join in using the sight assisting technology the Society has available.

I also learned many useful tips about living with low-vision, which I will be able to pass on to my patients, including:

* use large lamps shades which allow light out at both the top and bottom. This allows more light to be reflected around the room.

* place objects you are wanting to see on a contrasting colour surface, such as a white plate on a black mat and dark food on light coloured plates.

* have paper with thick black lines next to the phone or wherever you need to take a message or write a note.

* mark the edges of steps with contrasting colour paint or tape.

* decorate your room in light colours, it reflects more light into the room. Use matt finishes and contrasting colours around windows, door frames and skirtings.

* use contrasting non-slip mats in bathrooms and on shiny floors.

The Partially Sighted Society is a valuable source of knowledge on our doorstep. Drop-in or call for free information and advice about living or working with impaired vision. They also provide a free enhanced low-vision assessment service to advise on the latest, most appropriate magnifiers and other aids. Visit www.partsight.org.uk or ring 01302 965195.