I have severe diplopia, or double vision that is not corrected by glasses as the result of an eye muscle condition and a brain condition. Double vision is one of the most significant elements of my experience living with low vision, as it has a tremendous impact on my ability to read and access information, but it isn’t something that is frequently talked about when designing for low vision. Here is how I use assistive technology for double vision, and tools and strategies for living with double vision.
Is double vision corrected by glasses?
For some people, double vision may be corrected by prescription eyeglasses or prisms, though there are some cases where glasses do not completely correct the double vision, or someone’s vision may fluctuate. In my case, my prescription eyeglasses do not fully correct my double vision, and my vision gets worse if I am tired or dealing with pain. I’ve had three surgeries that have helped to improve my double vision over the years, but it is something I will likely always live with.
- How I Respond To Questions/Comments About My Glasses
- How I Respond To Questions/Comments About My Eyes
- Learning To Explain Usable Vision
What does double vision look like?
Double vision can affect people in different ways. Some people see two separate images side-by-side, while others might view one image as the shadow of another image, or have the images stacked on top of each other. For me, my double vision is more like the “shadow” version, where the mirrored image is often at an angle and blends into the original image. I created a simulation of what this looks like in PicsArt, a process which I outline in the post linked below.
- Using PicsArt To Simulate Vision Impairment
- Ten Lessons My TVI Taught Me
- Enabling Temporary Accessibility Settings For iPad
- Digital Accessibility and Chronic Pain
Reading with double vision
With double vision, words and lines often run into each other, making it difficult to tell when one word or line ends and another begins. Large print and increased text/word spacing make it easier for me to read print materials, as it is easier for me to distinguish letters and words when they are in a larger size with more space between them. Another option is to use text-to-speech to read text out loud, or to pair text-to-speech with reading text to improve reading comprehension.
Some of my favorite tools for reading with double vision include:
- Simplified reading displays that allow me to apply formatting settings to text documents or webpages
- eReaders for reading books or large amounts of text without a backlight
- Speak text and Read Aloud options for websites and mobile devices
- Reading applications that combine large print and text-to-speech
- Getting copies of notes and assignments in .docx formats so I can edit the formatting myself
- Line trackers for displaying a small number of lines at a time
- Simplified Reading Displays and Low Vision
- How To Use Text-To-Speech With Low Vision
- Capti Voice Narrator App Review
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Read
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: eReaders
- My Talk At I’m Determined Summit: Crash Course In Immersive Reader
Writing with double vision
I spend a lot of time writing in a variety of contexts, including taking notes, texting, and writing for my blog and other projects, and have adjusted my writing workflow over the years to make it easier for me to write and edit with double vision. I often use large text sizes when I am reading or proofreading, or will listen to what I have written with text-to-speech to catch mistakes, since I may have trouble catching misspellings of words or missing punctuation.
Other assistive technology tools that help me with the authoring process include:
- Autocorrect/smart editing tools for correcting and highlighting spelling, grammar, or other mistakes so they are easier to catch
- Large print keyboard- I love the Keys-U-See keyboard for my computer
- Listening to documents read aloud to catch mistakes
- Using color to label information- this is especially helpful when working on coding projects
- Tips To Make Proofreading Feedback Accessible For Low Vision
- Designing Accessible Documents With Microsoft Word
- How To Make Keyboards Easier To See
- Learning To Use Dictation As Assistive Technology With Low Vision
- How I Use Repl.it IDE With Low Vision
Orientation and mobility with double vision
In addition to double vision, I also have no depth perception, reduced peripheral vision, and blurry vision, and also have trouble seeing items that are more than a few feet away from me. As a result, I use a blindness cane when I am navigating unfamiliar environments, as it helps me safely detect obstacles. However, many people with double vision do not use blindness canes, though they can still benefit from orientation and mobility strategies and designing for low vision.
Some examples of ways to improve independent travel and orientation and mobility for people with double vision include:
- Adding high contrast tape to the ends of stairs so people can clearly see the edge of stairs
- Store items in consistent locations and don’t let others move them without permission
- Enable detailed pedestrian directions for GPS applications
- When possible, avoid making the color of the stairs the same color as the wall in the home, or add art/visual items to the wall to break up the block of color
- Use tactile pavement guides to step off the curb
Classroom accommodations for double vision
I’ve had disability accommodations for low vision since I was in kindergarten, though my teachers and family didn’t really understand how my double vision impacted me until I was older and found a better way to explain it. For example, I remember being confused that my teacher would say I colored outside of the lines consistently, when to me it looked like I was coloring inside the lines of the mirrored image. I have several posts about disability accommodations for low vision on my website, as well as linked below.
Some examples of classroom accommodations for double vision might include:
- High contrast paper with increased spacing between lines, or heavier weighted lines for coloring pages
- Using tactile materials and having students identify objects by touch instead of just by looking at them
- Preferential seating/allowing students to move closer to the board
- Getting copies of information presented at a distance- I would often get a copy of the teacher’s notes for class and copy them down myself
- Use of a line tracker for standardized tests
- Common Classroom Accommodations For Low Vision
- How To Create Tactile Images With Everyday Objects
- Paper Colors And Low Vision
- Preferential Seating and Low Vision
- Testing Accommodations For Low Vision Students
Adapting the home for double vision
I’ve adapted my living spaces in a few different ways to accommodate for double vision, and to make it easier to complete independent living tasks. One of the biggest things for me is the use of color as a way of distinguishing various objects, and I try to make sure that items like furniture and cooking tools pop against various surfaces, so that it is easier for me to identify objects.
Some home adaptations and design choices I’ve made with double vision in mind include:
- Storing items so they can’t be easily knocked over and spacing out items on shelves- if I accidentally reach for the mirrored image instead of the original image, I want to make sure I won’t get hurt or break something
- Hanging items or folding them in a single layer in a drawer so they are easier to distinguish, and organizing items by color
- Using colorful cutting boards that provide high contrast against knives and food- no cutting red bell peppers on a red cutting board
- Adding large print labels to jars and other items, and getting large print labels for medication
- Using a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo Dot to get information in a non-visual way
- How I Decorate My Dorm Room With Low Vision
- Organizing A Walk-In Closet With Vision Loss
- Assistive Technology For Medication Labels
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Navigate Your Dorm
Other tips for designing for double vision
- One of the design choices for my blog that was made with double vision in mind is the use of additional line spacing in posts. This can be done with the CSS element line-height: 2.0em;
- When using screen magnification, smaller view windows like the Lens or Docked view may be preferable to a full screen view, as it provides a more focused viewing experience
- I recommend using text-to-speech over a screen reader for most people with double vision, because most users do not need the additional page structure or navigation information provided by a screen reader