Reading even with low vision

By Carol / May 15, 2012 /

Puzzling out the morning cryptoquote

My mom had macular degeneration, a disease that destroys straight ahead vision but leaves peripheral vision. She could no longer sew or read or see the faces of people right in front of her, but she always considered herself lucky. She was healthy and able to live in her own home. But without the ability to read, she faced long hours that had the potential to be depressingly empty.

We were lucky to discover the Iowa Department for the Blind and their Talking Books. The Department for the Blind provided the tape player and their librarians quickly learned Mom’s preferences in books and authors – biographies and Louis l’Amour.  From the moment the first tape arrived in the mail, Mom was never without a book to read. Her avid reading resulted in weekly book discussions between us.

Mom’s quest to read didn’t stop there. We took a ‘mini-vacation,’ as Mom called day trips, to the low vision clinic at University of Iowa Hospitals where we found a fantastic reading machine. We bought it on the spot and Mom returned to solving her beloved crossword puzzles and cryptoquote puzzles, and enjoying pictures of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

After I published my memoir, I heard from many people asking if it was available in large print. Because of my mother’s experience, it pained me to have to tell them no.  It was only later I learned a large print version of my book could be available through e-books with their variable type size option.  Mom passed away before e-readers were available, but I know she would have leapt to try one.

If you have a friend or relative with low vision who loves to read and hasn’t discovered the services of the Department for the Blind or teaching hospital low vision clinics or the large print features in e-books, I hope you’ll share the news. These services are a true gift.

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  1. Rachelle Ayala (@AyalaRachelle) on May 15, 2012 at 9:20 am

    I’ve heard from several people who say Ereaders were a boon to their parents’ ability to keep reading and enjoying books. The E-Ink technology is also restful to the eyes for people who cannot take the glare of a computer screen. Thanks for posting about your mother and her joyful life.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      It’s wonderful that we have so many options to help people keep reading. It would be a lonely world for those with low vision if these helps weren’t out there.

  2. Doreen McGettigan on May 15, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    This is a great post Carol. I work with the elderly and 99% of them have trouble with their eyesight. A lot of them are enjoying e-readers and audio books and several have ‘the reading machine.’

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 16, 2012 at 7:47 am

      When I do book talks, I always try to mention the reading helps available. When Mom started to lose her sight, my sisters and I went in search of any services we could find. I think if Mom had been on her own, she may not have found them so readily. It was hard for her to realize that the Department for the Blind would come right to her house and help her with many things in addition to the audio books – and it was all free.

  3. Beth Hirst on May 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Hi, Carol! Thanks again for helping spread the word about the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at the Iowa Dept. for the Blind. We now have digital players and cartridges that are even easier to handle than the cassette books. And the sound quality is superb! We appreciate your support.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      You’re welcome, Beth. I sing your praises every chance I get. When I write about this topic again, I’ll be sure to mention the digital players and cartridges. I think when my book was taped, it was one of the first to be in the new digital format. Hope all is well with you!

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