Reading & writing


A low vision assessment will help you to select the most suitable magnifiers and train you to use them. You may need different magnifiers for different activities.

Some magnifier types include:

  • Handheld magnifiers: This is the most familiar style. The lens is held away from the object and the device has a handle. Many handheld magnifiers have built-in lighting. Some are pocket-size – particularly useful for shopping and other outdoor tasks.
  • Stand magnifiers: These are designed to stand on the page to maintain the correct distance between the lens and the text. Stand magnifiers might be helpful if your hands are a little shaky. They can be plugged in or fitted with batteries.
  • Brightfield/flatfield magnifiers: These are bar or dome magnifiers that look like a paperweight or a shaped ruler. The magnifier is placed flat on the page and you slide it across to read a line of text. They are only available in lower levels of magnification.
  • Round-the-neck magnifiers: These magnifiers are useful for hobbies like knitting where you need to have your hands free. They are only available in lower levels of magnification so may not be suitable for people with more developed macular disease.
  • Binoculars and monoculars: Specially designed for people with low vision, they are smaller and lighter than ordinary telescopic systems. They can be useful for tasks and activities like reading bus numbers and notice boards or visiting the theatre.

Download our Low vision aids leaflet for more information about magnifiers, or call our Helpline on 0300 3030 111.

Large print and audio    

Publications and products in large print or audio format can enable you to continue reading. Audio and large print books are stocked by most public libraries and many have services for people with sight loss. Calibre Audio Library is a charity which loans audiobooks, and most retailers can order titles in large print or audio upon request. If you are buying online, add the words ‘large print’ or ‘audio’ to the title or author to improve the search results. The large print products that are available include watches, board games, playing cards, calendars, diaries, address books, big button telephones, calculators and tape measures. Large print crosswords, sudoku and word searches are available from organisations such as The Partially Sighted Society and the RNIB. You can also download and print enlarged puzzles.    

Audio subscriptions    

RNIB Talking Books has more than 20,000 professionally recorded Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) audiobooks. The subscription includes a DAISY player. DAISY requires fewer discs than a CD and allows you to move easily around the text. National Talking Newspapers and Magazines also offers more than 200 bestselling publications in accessible audio formats. Local talking newspapers are available in many parts of the UK.     


Typoscopes are simple, but useful tools. They are often made of black card or plastic with holes cut in them to act as a guide when reading or writing. Some magnifiers have a form of typoscope on to help highlight a line of text.    

Pens, paper and printed material

When writing, using a black ink felt tip pen, or gel pen, can make it easier to see. White sticky labels can written on in large black letters and then stuck to items such as CD cases or medication. Many people find 'talking label' products helpful as they allow you to record a message describing an item, which can be played back. This allows you to identify a variety of different items including medication, food and other household products.     
Small changes before printing can make reading easier, including using plain fonts such as Arial, lower case instead of all CAPITALS, using bold sparingly, avoiding italics and underlining, and left aligning text. If someone is preparing a document for you let them know your preferred font style and size. If you have access to a computer it may be more practical to view documents electronically.

If you'd like to be shown how to use some of these low vision aids, our Gadget Guides can help. To find your local group or an event where a Gadget Guide will be attending, contact the Helpline on 0300 3030 111 or email