Reading, Writing, and Vision Loss

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Most of us take our reading and writing abilities for granted until the onset of visual impairment. After all, literacy is a key to personal independence and access to information. If you're losing your vision, one of your greatest concerns may be the possibility that you can no longer read.

Fortunately, there is an ever-expanding list of available techniques and technologies to help you read everything from prescription bottles to your mail to the latest bestseller. Large print books, magnification tools, audio books, apps, braille, and a growing number of products allow you to continue to read your morning paper, your monthly phone bill, and your favorite magazine. Whether it's for pleasure or for practical use, reading is too important for you to compromise or abandon because of vision loss.

While there are many reading tools available to you, it's important to remember that any solution will require you to learn to read in a different way. Listening and reading are not the same and require different sets of skills. Audio books, magnification, and other options can be very effective, but also will take time and patience to learn and manage.

In the end, the best approach to reading may be to try out and "mix and match" a range of techniques, tools, and devices, based on your own comfort level and reading habits. Not every solution is right for everyone, so do what's best for you. The information in this section can give you an idea of the wide variety of reading formats that are available.

Peer Advisor Audrey Demmitt: Reading Can Enhance Your Mental Health and Well-Being

Audrey Demmitt with her guide dog

Audrey Demmitt
with her guide dog

Reading as a Healing Experience

Most of us become readers at an early age and discover the wonders of a good story. We learn to interact with books in order to learn and grow. Characters come alive to us as we relate to their experiences. Sometimes reading is for pleasure or escape and other times it is for the disciplined acquisition of information.

No matter what, our engagement with literature and written word has the potential to change us, calm us, inform us, inspire us and heal us. In its simplest form, this is known as bibliotherapy. Exposure to books, poetry, writing, and even film and videos can be therapeutic and beneficial in helping us process our own life experiences. In other words, literature can be used to help us figure life out, heal emotional traumas, and change thoughts and behavior.

Reading Books About Blindness

As I was learning to adjust to vision loss, I was drawn to read books about blindness and books written by authors who were blind. I found it very helpful and motivating to enter the narratives of others who were sharing their own stories of vision loss. Some books were informational, some humorous, and others were deeply moving.

I realized that the cumulative effect was that I understood more about blindness and my feelings about it were changing. Reading books on blindness, memoirs, and biographies of blind writers has had a very positive influence on my ability to adjust and cope with vision loss. Consider a bit of reading therapy for yourself as a way to deal with vision loss.

Read more from Audrey, including her recommended reading list, at Reading to Enhance Mental Health and Well–Being. Also read Emotional Adjustment to Vision Loss and Coping with Vision Loss.

Personal Stories

  • Amy Bovaird: Mobility Matters
    As a person with retinitis pigmentosa, "Mobility matters. It allows me to join the rest of society, follow my interests and passion, and reconnect with my love for traveling. I don't have to stay at home fearing the dark anymore. I can live independently."

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