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Suggestions offered for coping with vision loss

Here's news many may be glad to see: Fading or lost vision doesn't have to mean a loss of independence.

Many resources and services can help people with vision loss maintain, even improve, their quality of life.

That's important to more people than many realize. Research conducted by Lighthouse International found one in six Americans over the age of 45 — about 16.5 million people — reports some vision impairment.

Vision loss has many causes. Along with normal aging, the four most common are macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.

A person with low vision-irreversible changes in vision that cannot be corrected by standard eyeglasses-may miss sharpness of detail, lose the ability to distinguish color or lose depth perception. Signs of low vision can include:

• Difficulty recognizing a familiar face.

• Difficulty reading-print appears broken or distorted.

• Difficulty seeing objects and potential obstacles such as steps, curbs, walls and furniture.

Fortunately, there is help for people coping with vision loss.

Resources include new strategies for daily activities such as cooking, home management, traveling and so on; computer training and specialized software; mobility training-learning to safely navigate the home, neighborhood or office; support groups to share information and experiences and reduce the sense of isolation; and adaptive devices and low-vision optical aids.

Five agencies offering information and rehabilitation services are:

1. Lighthouse International for low-vision products and services — (800) 829-0500 or

2. National Association for Visually Handicapped — Referrals to low-vision services, consultation on adaptive devices, emotional support services and a free large-print loan library. It's at (888) 205-5951 or

3. Reader's Digest Partners for Sight Foundation — The foundation maintains a Web site,, with helpful links to many organizations with services for the visually impaired.

4. American Foundation for the Blind hotline — (800) AFB LINE.

5. Ears for Eyes — Free audiocassette lesson tapes that teach adaptive daily living skills at or (800) 843-6816.

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