Loss of central vision does mean that some tasks such as reading or using a computer or phone are no longer possible in the conventional way. There is a great deal of assistive technology available for people with low vision and new options are becoming available all the time. Using devices such as CCTV magnifiers enable individuals with LHON to read using their remaining peripheral vision. Apple’s Voiceover and Talkback on Android mean that those with low vision, or no vision, can use all the features on their mobile phones. Computer software such as ZoomText, SuperNova and JAWS provide magnification, screenreaders, or in some cases both. Magnification software can enlarge everything on the screen and screenreader software speaks what a sighted person sees on the screen in a natural sounding voice.
Learning to touch type can take a little time and effort, but can make a huge difference to someone who cannot see a computer keyboard. There are self-study and computer programs to help. The pain and boredom of practice pays off and it will become a valuable skill particularly if you decide to access a computer using key commands, which many visually impaired people do as an alternative to using a mouse.
There are lots of touch typing websites like this one that provide free on-line lessons to help you learn and practice your typing.
You should be able to get a GP referral to a Low Vision Aids clinic. This involves a discussion with a specialist who knows about the huge range of aids available, and which ones are likely to help you. Some aids can be loaned out to you by the clinic, others you will have to pay for yourself. If you need a particular aid or adjustment to do with your job, then check out the Access to Work scheme to see if they will fund the cost. Alternatively look for charities that often help to provide aids. Your local Social Services may also be able to help find a source of funding.
Some low vision aids are very expensive, so it is a good idea to try them out as much as possible before buying one. Look for different types of aids, visit places where aids can be demonstrated, like the RNIB or QAC Sight Village, and use free trial versions of software to check them out first.
This is just a snap shot of what is available. Please watch this space for more information about more gadgets and clever stuff that can help with daily living.