Sight loss: at home
There are many conveniences available to ensure that you can have a full and stimulating life at home while living with sight loss.
If you love to curl up with a good book or relax and have a long read of the newspaper, there are lots of options you can choose.
Reading books, magazines and newspapers in print
If you can read printed material, but need it to be larger than the standard size of 10 to 12 point font, try using a magnifier or getting books in large or giant print. You can find out more about magnifiers in our Sight loss: technology section.
Large print books are either 16 or 18 point font and giant print books are anything larger. You can take out large print books from your local library and borrow giant print books from the RNIB. You can also buy large or giant print books and magazines from the reading and learning section of RNIB's online shop.
Large print books are also available from the following outlets:
- Amazon (search the site for large print options)
- The Large Print Book Shop
- W.F. Howes Ltd (provider of large print books along with audiobooks and digital services)
- Ulverscroft Large Print Books Ltd.
The Big Print Newspaper is the only national weekly large print newspaper, which includes a TV and radio guide. Subscribe to the Big Print Newspaper via the RNIB.
If digital is your thing, you may want to try eBooks. An eBook is an electronic book, which is just the same as a print book, except that you read it using a device called an eBook reader (or eReader) or on an eBook app on your computer, smartphone or tablet. New eBooks are published at the same time as print books and are either the same price or slightly cheaper than print books.
What's really great about eBooks is that you have more control over how you read them. All eBook readers allow you to enlarge text, and many allow you to change the shape, colour and contrast of text. Many eBook readers also enable electronic speech or can work with braille devices. As eBook readers and apps have many features to suit diverse needs, it is really a matter of finding the one that fits you.
Choosing an eBook reader or app
There are thousands of eBook readers and apps to choose from, so we've focused on the most popular ones amongst visually impaired people.
eBook readers tend to have their own libraries, so you can get both the reader and books from the same provider.
Here are some of the top providers of eBook readers:
Most major high street book, electrical and department stores sell eBook readers. If you're interested in them, don't be shy; just go in and ask for a demo.
Since most eBook apps are free, you may want to download one and try it out. Most eBook readers (including Kindle, Kobo and Nook) have free apps.
There are also popular and free apps like iBooks, Google Play Books and Adobe Digital Editions that you can use without an eBook reader.
- iBooks can be used on Apple Mac computers and Apple mobile devices.
- Google Play books can be used on any computer and on Android devices.
- Adobe Digital Editions can be used on Windows PCs and Apple Macs. This service is also available as an app for Apple mobile devices.
Getting the lighting right
Making sure you have the right kind of lighting will make reading more enjoyable. The type of lighting that will be right for you will depend on the cause of your sight loss, but it really comes down to what works best for you. You may prefer natural lighting, floor lamps, a mix of table lamps and overhead lighting or some other combination. Try out a range of lighting options to find the best set up for you.
To find out more about your lighting possibilities, visit the RNIB's site and check out the page that covers adapting the lighting in your home, where you will be able to download the organisation's Lighting Solutions Guide.
If braille is the format you prefer, you can find a lot more than just books in braille. From books, magazines and newspapers to labels on all sorts of products, braille readers in the UK have plenty of choices. To find out more about braille products, check out the Products and publications in braille page of the RNIB website.
Talking news and books
Staying informed about current events and enjoying the latest best seller should be a pleasure, not a challenge. By listening to talking news and books, you can stay up to date at your own comfortable pace, even if you experience sight loss or are partially sighted…or if you can’t hold printed media due to other health conditions.
What kinds of books, magazines and newspapers can I request?
High quality audio versions of the following items are available on loan throughout the UK.
- National and local newspapers
- Standard magazines and niche publications
- TV listings
- Radio guides
- Textbooks that support continuing education
- Thousands of books (ranging from bestsellers, mysteries, science fiction, biographies, religious works and more)
How are talking news and books formatted, and how can I get them delivered to me?
Back in the 1970s, talking books and magazines were recorded onto audio cassettes. As people found out about this standard service, it became more popular and moved ahead into newer, more advanced formats. For instance, CDs or USB sticks are very portable. And reading material that’s sent straight to your computer, tablet or smartphone can be streamed directly to you—on demand and at your convenience.
But if you don’t have a computer, there are handy speciality players that come in desktop or portable models. These devices play recordings that have been reformatted to work easily with the supporting technology.
Several organisations will deliver the news or books to your doorstep, and then you can return the materials free of charge when you have finished. Other companies charge a fee for their offerings but allow you to keep the items forever. This is helpful if you want to build your own personal audio library.
Great reading is available to everyone. Just check out the resources listed below to stay connected to the world of words.
Organisations that offer talking books:
- Avon Talking Magazine
- Bookshare.org online library for people with print disabilities (free through Dyslexia Action)
- Calibre Audio Library
- Listening Books
- LoyalBooks.com, free public domain audiobooks and eBook downloads (formerly Books Should Be Free)
- OverDrive.com access to eBooks, audiobooks and more from local public libraries
- Project Gutenberg (free audiobooks project)
- RNIB talking books service
Organisations that offer talking news and magazines:
- Infosound, providers of information for people with print disabilities
- National Talking Express audio magazines
- RNIB newsagent
- Talking News Federation for your local newspaper (if available)
Commercial sellers of talking books:
- Audible.co.uk audiobooks, an Amazon company (also provides apps for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone formats and supports tablet and computer reading)
- Penguin audiobooks
- TheWorks.co.uk audiobooks
Watching films and TV
Just because you have sight loss doesn't mean you can't enjoy your favourite films and TV programmes, thanks to Audio Description (AD). AD is narration that describes what is happening on-screen in a film, TV programme or even at a live event. AD is available on many TV programmes broadcast in the UK, as well as DVDs to rent or buy.
To learn more about AD, check out the Audio description page on the RNIB website.
If you enjoy cooking, whether for yourself or for family and friends, losing your sight doesn't mean you have to stop making your prize winning matzo ball soup or any other family favourites. It does mean that you'll need to adapt how you cook and you'll also need to make some changes to your kitchen to keep you safe.
Kitchen gadgets galore
We've asked all the visually impaired balabustas we know for the top kitchen gadgets they use to keep them cooking safely. Here are our top 10:
- Coloured chopping boards. The contrast between what you want to chop and each coloured chopping board is a huge help. Potatoes on black, tomatoes on yellow, and so on.
- Coloured mixing bowls. The use of contrast in mixing bowls with different colours on the inside helps with seeing what you are mixing.
- Liquid level indicators. If you want to make yourself a drink, this little gadget is what you need. You just put the indicator on the side of your cup, pour the liquid into the cup and the device beeps when it's full. It even has two levels for tea and coffee before and after you add milk.
- Large digit or talking weighing scales. If you still have some useful vision, large digit scales may work for you. Otherwise, talking scales will speak weights out to you.
- Colour coded or talking measuring cups and spoons. You can get colour coded measuring cups and spoons to tell which one is which. You can also find cups and spoons that speak the measures out to you.
- Talking thermometers. If you want to know how hot your knishes are before you serve them, but struggle to see the tiny markings on a regular thermometer, then a talking thermometer is for you.
- Talking labels. Talking labels are ideal for working out which jar the borscht is in and which one contains the pickles.
- Talking timers. To make sure your kugel is just right, a talking timer will be a great help.
- Bump dots. These tactile, self-adhesive rubber dots are great to use to find out what's what in your kitchen. You can use them on the knobs on your hob—one dot for the lowest heat and two close together for the highest.
- Anything made by Good Grips. The Good Grips range of products grip just where you need them to stop you from slipping.
Making adjustments to your home to make living with sight loss easier can prove costly. In the UK, local councils may provide grants for home adaptations, and this varies from council to council.