The other day, someone messaged me asking about my recommendations for magnifying glasses for low vision. While I prefer to use video magnifiers whenever possible, I have used lots of different magnifying glasses over the years both inside and outside the classroom to help me with reading items with low vision. Here are the most common types of magnifying glasses I have used with low vision and my favorite ways to use them.
What magnification power do I choose?
There are lots of different magnification powers available, ranging from 2x to 10x. Since I typically read size 36 point font, a majority of my magnification aids are 3x to 5x magnification powers, though some people may prefer to have a slightly higher or lower power.
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When I was talking to my teacher of the visually impaired in high school about how I was having trouble reading fine print in my science class, they gave me a pocket magnifier that had a small 1.5 inch square viewing window that I could use to magnify materials. I found this magnifier frustrating to use for reading text because looking through the glass for long periods of time hurt my eyes, but the smaller magnifier was perfect for magnifying items in labs or looking at exponents/subscripts. Outside of the classroom, I’ve used the smaller magnifier for magnifying plants and other small objects as needed.
Full page magnifying glass
In elementary school, my mom got me a full page magnifying glass that I could hold over a page to read. I found this much more natural than a smaller magnifying glass, but I had to take frequent breaks when using it because it would reflect the overhead lights. I liked this a lot better for reading pages of information or magnifying pictures or charts in a book, as well as using it to look at art or other images.
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Different from the full page magnifier, the magnifying sheet is a thin sheet that can be used to magnify a page and is often rectangular in shape. They are very flexible but poorer quality than the other types of magnifiers on this list, though they are cheap. While I have never used one of these in the classroom that I can remember, they are the magnification aid of choice at many government and doctor’s offices due to their low cost. I highly recommend using a traditional or full page magnification aid whenever possible.
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Traditional magnifying glass
The traditional magnifying glass is a handheld tool with a circular lens. It’s a classic for a reason, as this type of magnifier can easily be used to magnify small amounts of text or other everyday objects. I prefer to use this when working outside or with non-text objects.
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I was introduced to the stand magnifier in college, which allows a user to use magnification aids hands-free. This instantly made using a full page magnifying glass much easier, since I could write while I magnified information. It helps to adjust the stand as needed to avoid both eye strain and neck strain, and to ensure the objects are properly positioned.
Some people prefer to wear literal magnification glasses, as in glasses that magnify items 3x their size or larger. Since I wear prescription glasses, I found these somewhat difficult to put on over my existing glasses, but I love the idea of being able to zoom in on objects without holding anything. There are also magnification glasses that can be added on top of normal glasses, but these gave me vertigo.
Wearable/pendant magnifying glass
Why not make magnification a fashion statement? One of my friends wears a wearable/pendant magnifying glass to easily magnify information on the go, and finds it to be an incredibly valuable tool, especially when traveling or at conferences. While they may not be overly powerful, they are perfect for magnifying information in a pinch and are easy to keep track of.
Magnifying glasses can be an incredibly helpful tool for people with low vision. By knowing the different types of magnification aids and what is available, users can choose the best tool for their needs and ensure that they can access the world around them at whatever magnification power works best.