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Low Vision Blog

What Does 20/20 Visual Acuity Mean?

What Does 20/20 Visual Acuity Really Mean?

If you’ve been to the eye doctor lately, you may have heard what you measured that day in terms of visual acuity. 20/20 is what we consider unimpaired vision- but what exactly does that mean? Well, of course I could give you all the jargon and mumble jumble related to size measurement and all that, but I have an easier way of explaining it.

Technically, someone is deemed “Low Vision” if they are 20/70 or poorer in the better eye. In comparison to unimpaired vision (20/20), someone with low vision of 20/70 has to move as close as 20 feet to an object that I can see at 70 feet with unimpaired vision. We really need to think in terms of clarity and detail here. For example, with macular degeneration, maybe you measure 20/100. Ok, so that tells us, you see 5 times less clearly than your counterpart that views with 20/20 vision. Or, we can say I can see something at 100 feet that you have to be as close at 20 feet to see.

Low vision rehabilitation can help you with using your remaining vision more efficiently; from very mild impairment of 20/40 to severe impairment of 20/400 and poorer.

Quick Stats

20/70: Low Vision

20/200: Legal Blindness

20/2000: Near Total Blindness

No Light Perception: Total Blindness

Conventional Low Vision Devices for Near Tasks

This week I’d like to present information about near vision optical devices; specifically the advantages and disadvantages to some of the most common devices. Near vision optical devices are the most commonly sought-after aids when it comes to low vision. Why? Because they assist with reading, and fine-detail work. Many of my patients wish to read the newspaper, the Bible, or read cards they receive in the mail. Using near vision optical devices can help with such activities.



-       Wider field of view than handheld magnifiers

-       Binocular viewing (in powers up to about 12 diopters)

-       Can provide relatively normal appearance


-       Shorter working distance than handheld magnifiers

-       Do not have built-in illumination

Hand Held Magnifiers


-       Provide longer working distance than spectacles

-       Built-in illumination available


-       Smaller field of view than spectacles

-       Requires the use of one hand to position the magnifier

-       Requires a steady grip

-       Indicates to others that person has reduced vision (this may also be considered an advantage by some people)

Stand Magnifiers


-       Steady grip not required

-       Built-in illumination available


-       Limited range of working distances for presbyopia (diminished ability to focus on objects at near, usually with age)

-       Indicates to others that person has reduced vision (this may also be considered an advantage by some people)

If these low vision devices sound interesting to you, or if you’d like to learn more, please call to set up an appointment for a functional low vision assessment.

Tactile Markings Aids

Having challenges seeing the dial on the stove or oven?  How about accessing the print on the washer and dryer dials?  I know the microwave keypad is also a challenge for many folks...  This week, I am passing along helpful hints to mark your home and items with tactile markings so your fingers can do the work for you, or by way of using the contrast of the markings to your advantage.  Some of the recommendations this week come from "textbook examples", and others come from tried and true methods from clients and patients I have worked with over the years. 


Bump Dots:  these little guys come in all sizes, shapes, and colors.  Great for marking the microwave, stove, oven, washer, and dryer.  Everyone likes something different- if you'd like to consult with me, we can figure out a system that is exactly for you!

Colored electrical tape:  this is a great resource, and very inexpensive.  The tape is used more for the contrast and/or bold effect as opposed to the tactile element like the bump dots.  You could use this for just about anything, but a couple years ago, I used it on the sides of a client's handrails on her walker.  She had issues with depth perception, and by highlighting the rails on either side, it acted as a guide for her hand placement.


Puffy paint:  I love this stuff!  Again, very inexpensive, and can be picked up at any craft store.  This is available in a variety of colors and works well on surfaces that the bump dots will not.  I have marked phones, remote controls, stereos, and CD players with puffy paint.  Puffy paint can also be used on oven and stove dials, as well as the washer and dryer.  Having trouble reading the settings on the thermostat?  Puffy paint works very well for marking the thermostat.  This paint is ideal for making large print letters and numbers if you are trying to get some files made or become more organized.


Rubber bands:  This is what I usually recommend when people tell me about all the times they have used the conditioner in the shower, when they really wanted the shampoo.  Place rubber bands around the more dominant item- in this case, I think of shampoo being the dominant item when it comes to clean hair.  When you go to reach for the bottle of shampoo, it should have the rubber bands, and the conditioner bottle will have nothing around it.  Rubber bands can be used for many, many purposes.  Canned food is another great idea, and frozen foods too.  You can devise your own system; maybe your chicken soup will have one rubber band, and tomato soup will have two rubber bands.  Frozen peas, one rubber band, and frozen broccoli, two rubber bands.... the list could go on and on.  My favorite piece of advice for rubber band use came from a dear lady I worked with years ago.  She had several medications to take each day, at different times of the day.  She could never remember if she had taken them or not.  To solve that problem, she placed rubber bands around each medicine bottle.  When she took the pill from the bottle, she would remove the rubber bands.  That way, when she went back later in the day, she could feel at ease knowing that she did indeed take the pill because there was not a rubber band on the bottle.  At the beginning of each day, or the night before, she would place the rubber bands back on the bottles for the next day.


There are hundreds of marking devices available.  I try to recommend items that are inexpensive and easy to use.  Do not hesitate to contact me if you wish to discuss what system may be helpful for you. 

   - Jennifer


Press Release: Talking Guide


“Talking Guide” Reads Aloud Channel Names, Show Titles and DVR Commands;
Allows For Independent Search and Discovery For People With Disabilities

Philadelphia, PA Comcast today announced the industry’s first voice-enabled television user interface, a solution that will revolutionize the way its Xfinity TV customers, especially those who are blind or visually impaired, navigate the X1 platform. The “talking guide” features a female voice that reads aloud selections like program titles, network names and time slots as well as DVR and On Demand settings. The feature will be available to all X1 customers in the next few weeks.

About 19 million U.S. households have at least one member with a disability and according to the U.S. Census, there are 8.1 million people with a visual disability. In 2012, Comcast hired Tom Wlodkowski as Vice President of Audience to focus on the usability of the company’s products and services by people with disabilities.

“Television is universally loved, and we want everyone to be able to enjoy it,” Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO, Comcast  “The talking guide feature will enable all of our customers to experience the X1 platform in a new way, and give our blind and visually impaired customers the freedom to independently explore and navigate thousands of shows and movies.  We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible in the accessibility space and we are thrilled to have Tom and his team leading the charge.”

The talking guide “speaks” what’s on the screen as the viewer navigates the “Guide,” “Saved,” “On Demand,” and “Settings” sections of X1 and includes details like individual program descriptions and ratings from Common Sense Media and Rotten Tomatoes that help viewers decide what to watch. Future versions of the feature will include functionality within the “Search” section of X1 and additional personalization settings like rate of speech.

“The talking guide is as much about usability as it is about accessibility,” said Mr. Wlodkowski. “We think about accessibility from the design of a product all the way through production and this feature is the result of years of work by our team including customer research, focus groups and industry partnerships. For people like me who are blind, this new interface opens up a whole new world of options for watching TV.”

X1 customers will be able to activate the talking guide on their existing set top box by tapping the “A” button twice on their remote control. The feature also can be turned on via the “accessibility settings” within the main settings menu. Here’s how it works.

“Programming my DVR is one of the most empowering things I have ever done with my TV,” said Eric Bridges, Director of External Relations and Policy Development at The American Council of the Blind (ACB), who participated in a Comcast customer trial over the summer.  “My wife and I are both blind, so thanks to this new feature, we no longer have to choose between going out to dinner or catching our favorite show. The talking guide encourages independence and self-sufficiency; it’s a real game-changer for anyone who is blind and loves TV.”


Next year, Comcast plans to partner with service organizations and nonprofits to create awareness in the disability community of Voice Guidance and other accessibility features that offer a more inclusive entertainment experience.

“TV is such an important and integral part of the fabric of our culture that to be excluded from that experience in any way makes it more difficult for blind people to participate fully in society,” said Amy Ruell, a Comcast customer. “I had a chance to test this feature over the summer and I probably watch more TV than ever thanks to the talking guide. Comcast’s commitment to accessibility is encouraging because it means there will be tremendous progress in developing technology that is universally accessible.”

The talking guide is the latest in a series of innovations created in the Comcast Accessibility Lab. In addition to voice guidance and one-touch access to closed captioning, Comcast created an online help and support resource for Xfinity customers looking for information about accessibility-related topics. The webpage includes an overview of accessibility products and services, support for third-party assistive devices, information related to Braille or large-print bills and the ability to connect with accessibility support specialists.

The company also has a service center specifically dedicated to customers with disabilities. Comcast’s Accessibility Center of Excellence is based in Pensacola, FL, where a team of specially trained care agents handles about 10,000 calls each month.

For more information, view our Press Kiton the technology.  Also, follow @comcast for additional news and updates.

About Comcast Cable:

Comcast Cable is the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses.  Comcast has invested in technology to build an advanced network that delivers among the fastest broadband speeds, and brings customers personalized video, communications and home management offerings.  Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company.  Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.


Media Contacts:

Steven Restivo                                     



Decreased Contrast Sensitivity

Decreased contrast sensitivity is typically secondary to many low vision eye diseases. The ability to see a white bar of soap on a white shower shelf or the ability to identify mashed potatoes on a white plate requires contrast sensitivity. People need to distinguish changes in contrast in order to carry out activities of daily living; activities that most of us don’t even have to think about. However, someone with low vision may feel apprehensive towards tasks such as seeing the edge of a step, filling a glass full of liquid, or signing a check or credit card receipt. All of these activities require perception of contrast.


Treatment may include very simple instructions in how to increase contrast in daily activities, such as using a black bold marker to write with instead of pencil or blue/ black ink, using a light colored cutting board for dark food items, and vice versa, or simply using the correct kind of lighting. Adaptive aids are also available to increase contrast in one’s environment, such as yellow glare filters, and/ or natural-spectrum task lighting.


If you are struggling with decreased contrast sensitivity due to cataracts, macular degeneration, or another low vision-causing eye disease, please call me to schedule an appointment for an assessment that can identify helpful strategies, and adaptive aids.


Jennifer C. Zack, M.S., CLVT

Clinical Director & Certified Low Vision Therapist

English Spanish

ForSight Vision Center
Telephone: 717-848-1690
Toll Free: 800-255-6578
Fax: 717-845-3889

Adams County
Telephone: 800-255-6578

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