Reading and writing (accessing text)

It becomes more difficult to read and write when you have macular disease. Here are some hints and tips to help you continue to read and write with central vision loss.

Reading

Macular disease can make it more difficult to read. As your vision gets worse, reading can become frustrating. However, with a few adjustments you can continue to read.

Lighting

The macula needs good light to be able to work, therefore improving the light on the page that you are trying to read can make it easier to see.

  • Task Lighting: useful for improving the contrast on a page. There are various types available, and you can try them at most local sight-loss organisations.
  • Position a lamp below eye-level and direct it slightly away from you; this stops glare from the lamp reflecting into your eyes.
  • Use a lamp with an LED bulb that does not get hot as you will be able to use it for longer.
  • Use a daylight bulb and avoid using different coloured light bulbs.
  • Using a task lamp can reduce the need to increase the size of the font.

For more information about lighting and how it can support someone with macular disease, take a look our Lighting page.

Magnifiers

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. Hold the lens away from the object. Many handheld magnifiers have built-in lighting. Some are pocket-size – particularly useful for shopping and other outdoor tasks.
  • Stand magnifiers: rest on the page to maintain the correct distance between the lens and the text. Stand magnifiers can be helpful for those with unsteady hands.
  • Brightfield & flatfield magnifiers: these are bar or dome magnifiers that look like a paperweight or a shaped ruler. Place the magnifier on the page and slide it across to read the text.
  • Round-the-neck magnifiers: these magnifiers are useful for hobbies like knitting where you need to have your hands free. They are available in lower levels of magnification so may not be suitable for people with more developed macular disease.
  • Monocular: designed for people with low vision, they are smaller and lighter than ordinary telescopes. They can be useful for tasks and activities like reading bus numbers and notice-boards or visiting the theatre.
  • Handheld digital magnifiers: these devices have a camera and screen and are the same size as a large mobile phone. They magnify any text onto the screen so you can increase the size of the text, change the colour contrast and even freeze frame the image to bring it closer to you.
  • Desktop video magnifiers: these are the size of a computer with a camera and screen. Place a document under the camera and it is then displayed on the screen. The image can be magnified and colour contrast can be changed.

For more information about magnification and how it can support someone with macular disease, take a look at our Low vision aids page.

Large Print

Large print products and reading materials are available both through your local sight-loss organisation and online. These products will support you to continue reading.

  • Libraries provide a vast selection of fiction and non-fiction books in large print.
  • RNIB Reading Services has a range of book titles in giant print.
  • Everyday products such as kitchen equipment, watches, board games, playing cards, calendars, diaries, address books, calculators and tape measures can be purchased from local sight-loss organisations and online.
  • A range of magazines in large print are available through RNIB and local sight-loss organisations; these include crosswords and Sudoku.
  • Government departments and the NHS should provide any letters in the format of your choice - this includes large print.

Audio

As reading becomes more difficult, literature in audio format is a good alternative to reading.

  • Audio books are available from Calibre Audio Library and RNIB Reading Services. These audio books are unabridged so it is like reading it yourself.
  • Local libraries also have a range of audio books that can be borrowed. The library will not charge for these if you are registered as sight-impaired or severely sight-impaired.
  • Most counties in the UK also have a talking newspaper service for local news. RNIB Reading services has a range of magazines available in audio format.
  • Government departments and the NHS should provide any letters in the format of your choice - this includes audio.

Typoscopes

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. A credit card sized version of this, called a signature guide, is very useful for signing cheques and documents.

Writing & Handwriting

Macular disease can make it difficult to read your own or someone else’s handwriting; consider the following suggestions to make writing easier:

Handwriting

  • Choose paper with a matt finish as this will reduce glare from the page. Yellow or different coloured paper can create good colour contrast.
  • Use a black fibre-tipped pen - these come in various thicknesses. You may find you need to increase the thickness of your pen as your macular disease progresses.
  • It is best not to use joined-up handwriting as this can be hard to read, especially when magnified.

Writing on a computer or other device

Digital devices have become more accessible and are being used by people with macular disease. People are using these devices to send emails, text messages and to browse the internet. These devices can be adapted to make images/text easier to see/read:

  • Choose a plain and clear font such as Arial.
  • Avoid making text bold, italic or underlined. This can make it harder to read.
  • Set margins to the left and justify the text. Justifying text makes it easier to track when using a magnifier.
  • Don’t write sentences in block capitals - using lowercase makes the text easier to track.
  • Where possible do not use columns as this makes reading documents with a magnifier slower.

For more information about digital devices and how they can be used by someone with macular disease, take a look at our Using Technology page.