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Protect Your Vision: Ergonomic Interventions for Every Stage of Vision Loss

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
By Anne Kramer

Vision loss often happens naturally, as a result of aging. Indeed, most people will combat waning vision at some point in their lives. In the office, vision loss can negatively impact productivity. With the right ergonomics, however, it is possible to protect vision from further deterioration and improve productivity, at any stage of vision loss.


Commonly called “eyestrain,” ocular fatigue occurs when the muscles behind the eyes grow weak or sore due to overuse. Because many occupations require extensive reading, eyestrain frequently plagues workers, especially those who spend significant time in front of a computer. While eyestrain can be induced by dry eyes or outdated prescription eyeglasses, it is often related to workstation conditions and can be easily remedied. 

  • Computer screen glare can be eliminated with an anti-glare filter. Strategic positioning of the monitor also cuts down on glare from sunlight or overhead lighting.
  • To compensate for low contrast between the text and background, using a monitor hood is an easy solution.
  • A noticeable screen flicker swiftly contributes to eyestrain. Either adjusting the monitor or replacing it altogether will reduce eye fatigue.

Blurred Vision and Irritated Eyes

Both these conditions can evolve over time due to age or disease, but their onset can also be triggered by working conditions. Blurred vision often sets in as a result of constantly focusing on items less than 12” away when there is insufficient light. Meanwhile, dry or irritated eyes occur when blinking is reduced, often because of increased concentration. 

  • Sufficient task lighting will alleviate blurred vision. Adjustable desk lamps are particularly useful for reading documents or completing paper forms.
  • Frequent visual breaks, to focus on something in the distance, relieve eyes and redirect concentration.
  • Air movement can dry eyes further, so air vents and fans should be directed away from workstations.

Permanent Vision Loss

Many conditions contribute to steady deterioration of vision, including macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Although these conditions are generally associated with aging, they can affect people of any age. People who suffer from glaucoma, macular degeneration, or other progressive disorders may lose peripheral vision, have trouble discerning colors, or experience clouded vision. Proper ergonomic measures can compensate for these symptoms.

  • Magnifiers, available in both desktop and portable models, allow the user to control font size and screen contrast. 
  • Large-print keyboards make typing easier for workers with vision loss. Some offer color-coded keys, for added usability.
  • For distance viewing, which may be necessary at conferences or meetings, a head-worn magnifier is an excellent option.

Protecting the eyes and preserving vision is simple, with the right ergonomic tools. From temporary conditions like eyestrain and irritation, to more serious conditions like glaucoma or macular degeneration, all vision can be improved with the proper ergonomics. Through improved habits and well-designed workstations, anyone can protect and maximize vision.

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