Being unable to continue driving is one of the biggest issues for people with low vision, as it represents independence and convenience to many. For those living in rural and suburban areas, public transportation is scarce and driving is an everyday necessity.
You might have driven previously but your vision has worsened (with conditions such as hereditary or age-related macular degeneration) or you are a person with long-standing low vision who’s finding it difficult to continue driving regularly. Either way, don’t be intimidated. Driving is a skill that’s available to vision-impaired people; also, it’s somewhat easier to maintain now with new technology and support from institutions that help enable independent living with vision loss.
Here are some important tips to take into account to ensure safety on the road and keep your license.
1. Understand which specific driving skill your lack of vision affects
Normally, you will consult with your vision specialist first and go for regular check-ups to ensure you are carrying your driver’s license responsibly. You know the details of your condition well. However, driving is a complex task – it requires not just visual alertness but cognitive and physical demands as well.
That’s why it is very important to understand how your condition relates to this skill specifically. That way, you’ll be properly prepared once you’re on the road and there will be no confusing surprises. The most common issues that come up as symptoms of various vision conditions are lack of contrast sensitivity and glare sensitivity. We’ll explain these symptoms in more detail here, for the drivers whose vision has worsened so these occurrences are new to them.
2. Avoid low-contrast driving environments
Contrast sensitivity is the ability to detect the difference between light and dark areas – hence, objects are more visible when contrast is increased.
For example, black-on-white and vice-versa are the easiest to notice for people with low vision because it is the strongest contrast. A low-contrast driving environment makes it very difficult to see and discern the objects around you, so it’s best avoided.
Night time, foggy days, and snow are typically problematic driving environments for people with low vision because they offer very little contrast. Drive only on bright days.
3. Protect yourself from glare adequately
Glare sensitivity is a problem when driving during both day and night, as sunlight or bright light shining from traffic refracts and causes confusing, disabling glare. When the light from another car shines in your eyes during the night time, don’t panic, just look slightly to the right of the road. You’ll be able to use your peripheral vision to drive ahead just fine, as it is much less sensitive to glare. During the daytime, always use absorptive sunglasses recommended by your specialist – keep them in your glove apartment so that there’s no chance you forget them.
Another thing that is going to protect you from dangerous glare at all times is a windshield with a protective coating, as experts from Epping Auto Service suggest to all drivers, especially vision-impaired ones. The coating protects the glass from tiny cracks you won’t see and increases visibility. Additionally, make sure your glasses, windshield and car windows are all cleaned and smudge-free. Smudges usually refract light at unexpected angles and cause more glare.
4. Get help from technology
With lower vision, it’s much more difficult to concentrate on the complicated visual environment experienced when driving. Looking out for road signs takes more time and concentration, so it’s best to decrease the need for paying attention to directional signage. You can do this by using a GPS device with spoken directions. Adaptive cruise control and lane alert warnings are also available automobile technology that will be of huge help.
Speaking of technology, this blog has already covered the topic of breakthrough electronic glasses from eSight – you might want to have a look at those.
5. Consider using Bioptics
Bioptic lens systems are prescribed by ophthalmologists and optometrists to aid individuals with low vision when driving, and they are responsible for enabling thousands of vision-impaired people to drive. However, regulations on bioptic driving are different in various countries and states, so inquire about the restrictions first.
Lastly, if your vision has worsened, don’t hesitate to get training again, even though you have driven previously. This is not regular driving school, but training with specialists for driving with low vision. It will help you get over the obstacles properly and feel confident behind the wheel. Ask your eye care expert or a rehabilitation facility for occupational therapists who can help you with low vision driver’s education. Use your judgment wisely, follow these tips, stay calm and enjoy the road!
While living every day with severe hearing and vision loss, or learning how to cope with your new loss and be self-sufficient in your own home, adapting your living environment to accommodate your daily needs becomes paramount.
Among other rooms in the house that have varying hazard levels, the bathroom stands out as one of the most dangerous home environments for those with vision loss.
The bathroom regularly has slippery floors, handles, walls and other surfaces that a deafblind person might have a difficult time noticing. Moreover, standard bathroom amenities need to be replaced with adequate pieces that will help the deafblind individual stay safe and use the bathroom easily on a daily basis.
Here are the five essential bathroom adaptations for deafblind people.
Clean and Simple
The easiest and most affordable adaptation is regularly making sure your bathroom is clean and clutter-free in order to avoid the risk of slips and falls. One of your worst enemies is clutter, and it can accumulate quite fast if you’re not careful.
The first thing you need to do is to declutter your living environment, including the bathroom, and leave plenty of room for easy and safe maneuvering. Be sure to memorize where your bathroom necessities are and always put them back in their place after use. Remember, organization is key.
Start with the Flooring
When looking to introduce adaptations to your bathroom, you should turn your attention to the floors first. The floor can be the most dangerous part of your bathroom, so you want to make sure you introduce non-slip flooring, as well as non-slip mats in the shower and bath.
Another great way to increase the overall safety of your bathroom is to put non-slip fabrics on the edges of your bathroom amenities as well in order to be able to grab every surface without the fear of it being wet or slippery. Make sure you cover the vanity, and the bathtub.
Choose the right Amenities
Speaking of amenities, they need to be able to accommodate your specific needs. This means that you should choose sturdy and durable white baths that contrast the surrounding design, making them easier to locate and use. Likewise, you want to outline the vanity in a distinctive color in order to avoid slips and falls.
If you have storage space or electric appliances, such as the washing machine, in your bathroom, make sure you highlight all of the important areas in hues you can easily discern. You can even put markers on handles and buttons in order to be able to use your appliances with ease.
Colors and Contrasts
In order to transform your bathroom into a safe, warm, and friendly environment, you will need to use colors and contrasts to your advantage. It’s important to divide your bathroom into sections and give every detail its own distinctive color, or even group several different things under one hue.
This will allow you to use the power of contrasts to your advantage, and navigate your bathroom safely. In order to make contrasts work, you want to make sure the bathroom is adequately illuminated at all times.
Install Safety Features
Finally, if your loss is recent and you're still coping and learning to get around on your own, you may feel safer installing safety fixtures. Be sure to install handrails in the bath, the shower, and around the toilet and the sink. You also want to mount a durable seat in your bathtub in order to minimize the risk of injury.
Depending on the severity of your condition, you might also want to cover the rails and other safety fixtures with easily distinguishable color markers as well in order to avoid missing them by accident.
Living with vision and hearing loss doesn’t have to be an arduous task; in fact, by following these essential tips, you will have no problem transforming your bathroom into a safe, and serene oasis you can enjoy for decades to come.
Catherine is a passionate home design consultant from Melbourne. She loves making homes beautiful and buildings sustainable, but she also like sharing her advice and knowledge with people.
That is why she is also a regular contributor to the Smoothdecorator blog. Besides all this, she loves reading and enjoys a superhero movie from time to time.
Home security is an important issue. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily need it, but it's one of those things you like to have just in case. People think that by buying a quality door with strong locks they will stop intrusions, but the truth is that burglars are smarter than that. Those with disabilities are especially targeted because the burglars see them as weak and unprotected.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) registers 285 million visually impaired people on the global level. There have been many technological solutions to help them with their daily activities and keep them mobile. This so-called assistive technology has been present since the 1960s and was focused on helping with personal care and mobility.
Assistive technology depends on the information collected from the person’s surroundings. Then that data is transmitted to the visually-impaired person through the audio or tactile format and both. This technology has improved over the years with the development of the sensor system, like for the Smart Cane.
When it comes to home security, the visually-impaired require a little bit more finesse, but the basics stay the same as for everyone. If you live with the visually-impaired person or are one, here are some security measures to take into consideration.
Always Lock your Doors
You must always lock your doors, no matter if you’re at home. Burglars always look for the most convenient way to enter someone’s home. In order to make sure that the doors are locked use locks that you can register by touch.
For example, if the lock is vertical that means that the doors are locked. Adding some heavy protection like deadbolts to the front door will also help, and if you leave in the house you should install them on the back entrance too.
Before you open the door, you should always know who you're letting into your home. Camera and microphones connected to the doorbell are very common today in the apartment buildings.
You can connect the feed to your smartphone or tablet and answer the door from any room in the house. Even though you may have problems with visually identifying the person, you will be able to recognize them by their voice.
Use Bright Tape for Home Alarm Systems
Home alarm systems can be tricky. They require a certain reaction time from the moment you entered your home and until you reached them. In order to be effective in the shortest period of time and shut down the alarm, you should make a signalization for yourself.
The bright tape is an ideal tool to leave directions for yourself in order to press the right buttons. If you frame the control panel with the bright tape you will locate it more quickly and enter the appropriate passcode in time.
Fire and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Burglars are not the only danger that may come your way. Even though we feel the safest in our homes, that safety bubble is not perfect. Accidents happen and the most common ones are created by fire.
It’s hard to predict these accidents and that’s why installing fire and carbon monoxide alarms are the best safety measure you can have. Make sure that you check their functionality regularly since they operate on batteries which need to be changed.
Emergency Panic Buttons
An emergency panic button is designed to give you a quick respond of your home security system if you feel threatened. The button is located next to your bed and the moment you press it the sound alarm will turn on.
Sirens will alert your neighbors and security personnel, sometimes even the police, depending on your alarm system.
Clear your Path
If you need to escape from your home, in case of fire or to run away from the intruder, you have to clear the path beforehand. Remove rugs and carpets from your home which can trip you on your way out or make you slip and fall.
Keep the furniture out of the way and don’t leave clutter by the door. All stairs should have handrails to keep you from falling down and injuring yourself. Cords and wires should be nailed to the wall and out of the pathway. Keeping your home clean and tidy will prevent tripping and injuries.
Motion Sensor Lights
Usually, people use motion sensor lights for the entryways, yards, around the house perimeter and any other critical spot outside the home. Visually impaired people can also use them inside their home.
It’s a useful intruder detection system and you can have it installed only for those purposes. Indoor and outdoor LED lights are inexpensive and effective solution varying in color and brightness.
Wander alarm is a specifically designed device for detection of movement. It’s intended for windows and doorways, but can also be used for pieces of furniture like bed and chairs. It has a wireless motion sensing system with the range of 4.5 meters.
It can release a chime or send a signal to the receiver up to 30 meters away. The system uses two 9V batteries which should be changed regularly for it to be operational.
Secure the Windows
If your windows are old, you will have to replace them in order to secure them better. Even though alarm system will cover all entrances including the windows, you should make sure that all windows are locked. I
f you live on the lower levels, and can’t install the burglar bars, keep your windows closed. If you need additional security, install the sensor lights just above the windows. That way you’ll be alerted if anyone is trying to enter your home.
Use Light Timers
Light timers are a nice trick to create the illusion that you are at home. You can control them over your smartphone or just set the timers when you want lights to turn on. This will certainly make it easier for you if you come home when it’s dark so you wouldn’t trip and fall.
All this may seem complicated for someone who is visually impaired, but it can quickly become a routine for you. The most important thing in a person’s home is the safety and with this advice you will secure your environment.
Today's Spotlight is on eSight.
Who is eSight?
eSight transforms the way in which individuals with legal blindness experience the world around them, by allowing them to actually see it. As an organization, eSight is guided by the fundamental principle that Everyone Deserves to See. And this bold vision has been made a reality with its breakthrough pair of electronic glasses that allow the legally blind to actually see, be mobile, and participate in virtually all Activities of Daily Living.
What is eSight?
eSight is a breakthrough pair of electronic glasses that enables individuals living with legal blindness and low vision to actually see. Crucially, it provides sight, without the need for surgery. When a person with legal blindness puts eSight on, they are able to see in virtually the same manner as someone who is "normally sighted". eSight is the only clinically validated wearable device in existence that allows individuals with legal blindness to see, be mobile, work for a living, study, and engage in virtually all facets of their everyday life. These incredibly powerful electronic glasses record high-speed, high-resolution video from a camera positioned in the centre of eSight, to capture what the wearer is looking at in real time. Proprietary algorithms enhance the high definition video feed and displays it on two near-to-eye OLED screens in front of the user's eyes with unprecedented visual clarity and without any perceptible latency or delay. eSight's patented Bioptic Tilt capability also allows wearers to be completely mobile while using the device; so they can be completely independent and participate in virtually all Activities of Daily Living. Other features available to eSight users to maximize their visual experience include: unprecedented control over contrast, focus, and brightness; magnification (24x); and hyper-connectivity with Bluetooth, WiFI and HDMI capabilities.
eSight is available in 42 countries (and counting) An individual can try eSight, risk-free, before they make a full-purchase.
For further information on how to start one's eSight journey, please reach out to one of our Vision Advocates at eSightEyewear.com/Next-Steps or call 1.855.8eSight (1.855.837.4448).
In 2001, Dr Dean Shibata, section chief of neuroradiology at the University of Washington, presented his findings on how deaf people “hear” music.
According to his research results, deaf people have a similar experience in feeling as other people have in hearing the music. This is because of both groups of population process the music in the same part of the brain.
“The brain is incredibly adaptable. In someone who is deaf, the young brain takes advantage of valuable real estate in the brain by processing vibrations in the part of the brain that would otherwise be used to process sound,” Dr. Shibata said the same year at the 87th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
Real life inspirations
Although this scientifically explained how deaf could hear music, the notion was familiar to most through the story of Beethoven. In 1796, he started losing his hearing and in 1801, he lost it completely. However, that didn’t stop him from composing and he created one of his most famous composition in that period the Moonlight Sonata and The Ninth Symphony.
Although Beethoven became an inspiration to musician since then and even today, in 1995 another person won people’s hearts. Heather Whitestone, a contestant at the Miss America Pageant danced and impressed the audience with her moves, and in tune with the music while being deaf.
Janine Roebuck, Britain’s opera mezzo-soprano, start losing her hearing while studying at the Royal Northern College of Music and then continued at the Paris Conservatoire and the National Opera Studio in London. She kept it a secret for 10 years and performed brilliantly because she was afraid she would lose the roles or get simple ones.
Tired of hiding her problem, she admitted it and left everyone in awe. Since that, she started working with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and became of the most vocal members of the deaf community.
How do they "hear"?
Dr Shabata said: "These findings suggest that the experience deaf people have when ‘feeling' music is similar to the experience other people have when hearing the music. The perception of the musical vibrations by the deaf is likely every bit as real as the equivalent sounds since they are ultimately processed in the same part of the brain."
The way these vibrations work is that they help deaf people feel the bass. Namely, in order for this to happen, deaf people have to turn the music extremely loud. This volume would be unbearable for those with intact hearing and they’d have to wear earplugs. The vibrations coming from the bass are giving the rhythm and deaf person can sense the tempo.
The study, conducted by Dr Shabata in 2001, included 10 people deaf from birth and 11 who had no hearing loss at all. The participants were asked to hold the vibration pipe and inform Shabata when they felt them. The Doctor used brain scans to detect the signals and their transmission in the brain. This method helped him find out that the deaf and non-hard-of-hearing processed the music signals in the same part of the brain.
Another important conclusion came out of this study, and it regards the loss of hearing or deafness in young children. Due to the same processing characteristics as the non-hard-of-hearing person, deaf children should be exposed to music as early as possible. Since their young brains are still in development, they may better adjust to the stimuli and later present improved sensation to musical themes and variations.
Emoti-Chair and the vibes of music
Prior to ‘70s, deaf people didn’t have many options when it came to hearing aid technology. However, today there are many available devices and others still in development.
In 2009, a demonstration in a small Toronto club left quite an impression on the world. News all over the globe reported the unbelievable devices called Emoti-Chairs which allowed deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the audience to experience the performance on stage. Since then, twelve of these chairs were used during the symphonic performance in 2013, and today they’re commercially available.
The Emoti-Chair translates audio signals into vibrotactile ones. Namely, it uses music, digital patching and speakers in the process of turning the sound into a sensation for deaf people. There are even performances specifically intended for deaf persons which use these chairs.
Visualization of the beat
Deaf people don’t shy away from music. They’ve been an inspiration to all when it comes to this type of art. They sing, play instruments, compose and even sing through sign language. Instead of deciding to give up, they started listening by feeling the beat. For example, drums are can be felt because they’re loud and give off great vibrations.
However, what helps them better identify the music is the visual aids. Many performances use lights and video representations which can help deaf people understand the music. This visualization is using lines and colors to highlights the tempo and bass which is mostly enough to garner music. There is also the BW Dance app which helps deaf and hard-of-hearing to feel and dance to music.
Liron Gino, a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, has come up with the Vibeat jewellery for the deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Actually, a device, this set of jewellery helps them feel music through vibrations. It consists of a necklace, bracelet and pin with round disk-like units. They jointly create an "alternative sensory system" used to convert music to vibrations.
“Music is one of the deepest and most primal forms of human communication, and its ability to convey emotion and expression make it into an invaluable tool,” said Gino.
In the end
The technological advancements have come a long and amazing way in the recent years. This is because of the remarkable individuals who provided inspiration and were pioneers. The perception of how the brain works and sensibility with which deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals feel the sound have helped shape the innovation process. More importantly, scientific achievements will certainly bring new and exciting ways for music to be heard even where the silence rules.
I was asked to test out a new iOs App for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people called MyEar. It's a speech-to-text App to help in communication.
MyEar came about when a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult) saw how much his Deaf father was struggling to lipread day in and out. He decided to create an App to help his dad.
I think this is a great App! Even if you're a skilled lipreader - you'll still only catch about 30% of the conversation. Not fair is it? MyEar will help transcribe what's being said - it's not perfect - and they state that clearly - but I've found it to be much, much better than other Apps available out there.
This will help in various situations:
Here's a video demonstration on how it works:
Pretty simple right! No advertising,, no asking people to download the same app, no popups, no more buying "minutes"!
One drawback I found with it - you need an internet connection for it to work, so sometimes it won't work on my iPad. But, very few places don't have public WiFi these days.
So, check out their Facebook Page or download it yourself with this link: