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Ergonomic Tips for the Visually Impaired

Wednesday, July 22, 2009
By Anne Kramer

Statistics indicate that over half the population will suffer some degree of vision loss. Many will suffer severe vision loss that requires significant adaptations to their environments. While vision impairment can be an obstacle, it can be accommodated with ergonomic interventions.
Causes of Vision Impairment

The primary causes of vision impairment are often—but not always—closely linked to aging. The conditions listed below account for the vast majority of vision disabilities. 

  • Retinal detachment: Small tears or holes in the retina can eventually cause it to detach completely, resulting in partial or complete vision loss. If caught in time, retinal detachment can be treated.
  • Cataracts: These tend to develop slowly over time, resulting in blurred vision and an increased sensitivity to glare. Cataracts can often be removed with surgery, which generally restores vision almost fully.
  • Glaucoma: Caused by a gradual breakdown in the optic nerve, glaucoma generally causes loss of peripheral vision, or “tunnel vision.”
  • Diabetic Retinopathy: A common side effect of diabetes, retinopathy causes blurry, patchy vision. Although it can affect anyone with diabetes, diabetic retinopathy tends to develop with age.
  • Age Related Macular Degeneration: A relatively common condition among older people, macular degeneration results in distortion and loss of central vision.
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa: Unlike the other vision disorders, pigmentosa is hereditary and can affect people at any age. People with this condition suffer slow, progressive vision loss.

Ergonomic Solutions for Vision Impairment

While common preventative measures like anti-glare filters and task lighting are still important for employees with vision loss or impairment, these tools are usually not enough on their own. Many options are available to help people with impaired vision maximize their sight and complete daily tasks like reading or using the computer.

  • Large-print keyboards make typing easier for users who have any of the above conditions. Some models also offer color-coded keys, which can also help people who are sensitive to contrast between the text and background. 
  • Adjusting the color and contrast of the monitor via the control panel gives relief to people whose vision impairment causes sensitivity to glare, brightness, or sharp contrasts. The contrast can also be increased to improve sharpness if necessary. For monitors that have issues with glare, an anti-glare filter will reduce eye strain and fatigue.
  • Video magnifiers project documents in a larger size, to eliminate the difficulty of reading small print. With both portable and stationary options, magnifiers are a simple solution to the most common challenge facing those with vision loss.
  • For distance viewing, electronic video magnifiers can be worn or docked at a computer workstation. These devices provide a versatile, space-conscious method for improving long-distance sight.

With the right tools and adjustments, employees can accommodate their vision loss and remain productive, healthy members of the work force.

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