Imagine you have just finished your exams and you are about to live alone for the first time in your life.

Magnifiers and other low vision aids are important in ways that you may never have thought of before.

Using low vision aids

You may find magnifiers really useful for:

  • reading ingredients, sell by dates and cooking instructions
  • reading information on medicine bottles
  • looking at the dials on the microwave, cooker and washing machine.

Living alone for the first time means you'll need to do things you perhaps relied on others for in the past. This is exciting and allows you to become more independent and confident about taking care of yourself. Low vision aids are essential for tasks like these so have an assessment before you go and talk through your lifestyle changes with your optometrist.

Accessing course materials

Low vision aids may also be useful for accessing course materials at university or college. Let's say, for example, that your lecture notes haven't been enlarged in time. Do you:

  1. sit through the lecture unable to follow it and catch up later that evening, or
  2. use a magnifier to read the lecture notes alongside everyone else and spend the evening with your friends?

Low vision services will help you make the most of your remaining sight. Specialist low vision practitioners can assess your vision and provide support, advice and practical solutions for you. It is important to have a thorough low vision assessment before buying any magnifiers.

Finding your local low vision service

Low vision service provision across the UK is very variable and may be based in a local hospital, located in opticians' practices or offered from a resource centre run by the local society for people with sight loss. To find out more about low vision services in your area, contact a local hospital eye department or speak to your GP, social services (the visual or sensory impairment team) or local society for people with sight loss.

If you no longer see an eye specialist, it may be useful to visit your local optometrist who can carry out an eye health check as well as help signpost you to local services.

A good low vision service will have a wide range of equipment including hand held magnifiers in a variety of shapes and handles (including those with in-built illumination) and stand magnifiers. They can also establish which low vision aids would be most useful for you. These may include other aids, such as large buttoned telephones, talking watches, and liquid level indicators to help increase your independence in your home.

In England

The RNIB Low Vision Centre in London provides a specialist rehabilitation service for people who have been diagnosed as having low vision. The service enables people to get the help they need by looking at their everyday needs and difficulties. This service is available to people who live in Camden or Islington, Kensington and Chelsea.

In Northern Ireland

Low Vision services in Northern Ireland form part of the hospital service. You can find out more about these services by contacting an RNIB Eye Care Liaison Officer (ECLO). An ECLO can help you link to your relevant Eye Clinic or Low Vision service. Details of your nearest ECLO can be found on the 'Eye Care Liaison Service RNIB Northern Ireland' pages.

In Scotland

Low vision referrals in Scotland can be made through your GP or Eye Clinic. You can contact your Local Authority Social Work Department and/or Local Society to arrange an appointment.

In Wales

The Low Vision Service in Wales is a free service which provides a range of low vision aids that may be useful to you. Equipment provided includes handheld magnifiers, task lamps and even high tech electronic low vision aids. The eyecare Wales website is the best way to find out more about this service and how it operates in Wales. There are now two ways to search for services on the website. People can either search for services within 2, 5, 10 or 25 miles from their postcode or they can search for services by county.

Further information

We provide a range of products to help people with low vision, such as lighting, magnifiers, reading, writing and labelling equipment, talking kitchen appliances and mobility aids in our online shop.