Understanding low vision glasses
Low vision glasses are one type of assistive technology intended to help maximize an individual’s remaining eyesight for completing daily tasks. In this post, we’ll review many types of spectacles and devices worn over the eyes, from low-tech lenses to high-tech wearable solutions. We’ll offer specific examples of each type of glasses and reflect on which options may work best for individual needs, eye conditions, and situations.
With low vision glasses, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. However, taking the time to research, try out different options, and find the best fit for your needs can lead to greater independence and better quality of life, despite progressive vision loss.
Why are low vision glasses important?
Unlike other types of assistive technology, low vision glasses are hands-free. While wearing glasses, the hands are free to complete everyday tasks such as reading, writing, using a mobile device, working, or doing household chores. Additionally, low vision glasses do not interfere with other types of tools that require use of the hands, such as a white cane or a wheelchair.
9 real examples of low vision glasses
Here are a number of examples of low vision glasses, ranging from specialized spectacles to high-tech wearables.
Magnifying Reading Glasses
Magnifying reading glasses enlarge printed or digital text to help an individual with low vision read independently. They are also used to magnify small objects for hand work such as knitting or sewing. At higher powers, magnifying reading glasses typically require a closer working distance, which narrows the field of view.
Another type of reading aid, prismatic eyeglasses use spherical lenses that magnify and converge the image simultaneously. Prismatic eyeglasses range in power from plus 4 to plus 12 diopters.
Clip-on loupes attach over a pair of prescription glasses to provide magnification for reading, computer work, or other types of tasks using the hands. They conveniently flip down when in use and flip up when not needed. Since they work in conjunction with prescription glasses, they can be especially helpful to individuals with strong nearsightedness or astigmatism. Available in a variety of strengths, weaker clip-on loupes can be used with both eyes, while stronger loupes (over plus 10 diopters) can only be used with one eye.
E-Scoop glasses combine five unique optical characteristics to maximize remaining vision, particularly for people with macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy. Designed as a middle-of-the-road option between standard eyeglasses and eyeglass mounted telescopes, E-Scoop glasses focus the image onto the region of the eye least affected by vision loss. E-Scoop glasses can be worn constantly and help increase image/text size, improve contrast, protect from UV rays, and allow more light into the eye while reducing glare.
Telescopes or Binoculars
Telemicroscopic glasses utilize small telescopes attached to a pair of eyeglasses to help with seeing up close. Telemicroscopic glasses do not require as close of a working distance as magnifying reading glasses, so telemicroscopic spectacles may be more comfortable for certain tasks. However, the image might be somewhat dark, and the glasses may feel heavy on the nose and face.
Spectacle-mounted telescopes are permanently attached to eyeglass lenses and are used for distance viewing activities, such as watching TV or attending a play, sporting event, or movie. Unfortunately, because spectacle-mounted telescopes may affect a person’s depth perception and balance, they are not recommended for use while walking or moving around.
Bioptic telescopes incorporate telescopes mounted in the upper part of eyeglass lenses. An individual can focus her gaze through the bottom half of the lenses to see objects at a distance, or through the telescopes to magnify close-up tasks such as reading. Some states allow people with low vision to use bioptic telescopes for driving. Since bioptic telescopic glasses are mounted high on the eyeglass lenses, they don’t inhibit mobility in the same way as spectacle-mounted telescopes.
FDTS glasses, or full diameter telescopes, also utilize telescopes mounted onto a pair of glasses, but are designed for stationary distance viewing. Similar to looking through a pair of binoculars, FDTS glasses can be used for watching TV and movies, birdwatching, attending a play or sporting event, or seeing another person’s face across the room. Adding a reading cap to FDTS glasses can help with close-up tasks like reading, computer work, or other types of hand work.
A high-tech solution, the OrCam MyEye PRO is a small, discreet, lightweight wearable device that attaches magnetically to any pair of eyeglasses. OrCam uses artificial intelligence to assist the wearer with daily tasks, including reading, recognizing faces, shopping, money recognition, identifying colors, and telling time. It does not enhance vision, but rather translates visual information into audio format. It’s also voice activated, so the user can ask OrCam to complete certain tasks, like reading the headlines of a newspaper.
In addition to the MyEye PRO, OrCam is available as a handheld reading pen called OrCam Read. For more information, please visit the OrCam section of our site.
eSight 4 glasses are an all-in-one wearable device for people with various types of visual impairments, including macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and others. The glasses use advanced technology to stimulate synaptic activity from the remaining photoreceptor function of the eyes. By wearing eSight, many people enjoy dramatically improved visual acuity up to 20/20. eSight 4 is wireless, hands-free, and designed for all-day wear, incorporating natural peripheral vision for 100% mobility retention.
Acesight is another type of wearable electronic glasses that help people with low vision see and experience the world around them. Acesight is available in different models at varying price points. Notably, the newest model, Acesight VR, has a 48 megapixel camera which produces incredibly smooth, vivid images in extraordinary detail. Acesight VR is intended for indoor activities such as reading and watching television. It also helps the user view his or her surroundings and see the faces of friends and loved ones.
Eyedaptic glasses are lightweight, augmented reality (AR) wearables that help optimize remaining vision for those with age-related macular degeneration and other low vision conditions. Eyedaptic technology takes full advantage of the user’s functional peripheral vision. The newest model, the EYE5, has a high-resolution camera, an extended 3-hour battery life, and a new facial detection feature to help see family and friends. It includes a dedicated cell phone which is tethered to the glasses, allowing the EYE5 to function as both a wearable visual aid and a handheld magnifier. Learn more about the EYE5 in this video demo.
For more details, please visit our Eyedaptic page.
5 questions to consider about low vision glasses
As we have outlined here, there are a wide variety of glasses to help people with low vision see better and complete tasks independently. Here are some questions to think about when considering which type of glasses may work best for yourself or a loved one.
- What are my goals, in other words, what do I hope to be able to achieve by wearing low vision glasses? Some examples may be: working, completing daily tasks like paying bills, resuming hobbies (such as knitting, collecting, crafting, etc.), or leisure activities (like reading, watching television, attending concerts or sporting events, etc.).
- What is my budget? Are there any resources I can seek out for additional support? (The Resource section of our website includes links to some national and local organizations, such as the Association of Blind Citizens and the Memorial Foundation for the Blind, that help provide funding for assistive technology. Please visit the organization’s websites for more details on funding opportunities and eligibility.)
- What is my visual acuity? Have I consulted with my eye care team specifically about low vision glasses? Your eye doctor, low vision specialist, and/or rehabilitation therapist can help you determine which glasses are best suited for your needs, goals, and budget.
- Am I open to trying a new type of technology, like a wearable device? Or would I be more comfortable starting out with a more conventional type of glasses?
- Do I need to connect with a low vision technology specialist? Sometimes glasses may be procured through your eye doctor; other times, you may need to source your own assistive technology through a qualified, reputable vendor. AdaptiVision offers free, no obligation low vision consultations to help you find the right technology. You can contact us to request an appointment.
Final thoughts on low vision glasses
When it comes to low vision assistive technology, low vision glasses are unique in that they are handsfree. Keeping the hands free gives the user even greater freedom and independence to complete all kinds of tasks, from household chores to reading, working, cooking, watching TV, completing projects and more. A wide-range of low vision glasses, from low-tech spectacles to high-tech wearables, can be narrowed down with the help of your eye doctor, low vision specialist, and assistive technology specialist. As part of your research, it is also helpful to define your budget and your goals for using the glasses.
AdaptiVision specializes in advanced assistive technology for low vision, including the wearable devices mentioned in this article. If you would like more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out.Request Appointment
By Bethany Wyshak. Reviewed by Stuart Flom.
Drue, J. (2021, September 2). Low Vision Spectacles. Lighthouse Guild. https://lighthouseguild.org/low-vision-spectacles/
Gerritsen, B. (2020, October 26). What Are Low Vision Optical Devices? – VisionAware. VisionAware. https://visionaware.org/everyday-living/helpful-products/overview-of-low-vision-devices/low-vision-optical-devices/
NuEyes Low Vision Solutions. (n.d.-a). E-Scoop Glasses. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from https://www.lowvisionsupport.org/low-vision/low-vision-glasses/e-scoop-glasses/
NuEyes Low Vision Solutions. (n.d.-b). FDTS Glasses. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from https://www.lowvisionsupport.org/low-vision/low-vision-glasses/fdts-glasses/
NuEyes Low Vision Solutions. (n.d.-c). Low Vision Glasses & Magnifiers | Low Vision Aids. Retrieved March 1, 2023, from https://www.lowvisionsupport.org/low-vision/low-vision-glasses/
Optical Images. (n.d.). Take Back Your Life! Explore Low Vision Eyeglasses & Devices! Retrieved March 1, 2023, from https://www.opticalimages.com/low-vision-optometrist/low-vision-eye-diseases/macular-degeneration/low-vision-glasses/