Magnification Matters

Adapting to life with vision loss can be frustrating and challenging. Ironically though, it can also be rewarding and successful. Community Services for the Blind and Partially Sighted understands that living with partial vision is not easy, and we know of tools and resources that can make it easier to live independently.

There are many people who likely have well used magnifiers lying around their home. Whether it be borrowed, inherited from previous generations, or purchased from a local drugstore, it can be difficult to find the perfect magnification device, without visiting a low vision professional. This is hands down the best way to find out which magnifier would be most beneficial in enhancing your eyesight.

When it comes to choosing the best magnifier, the Low Vision Staff at CSBPS considers the tasks and activities for which the device will be used. They offer special training, teaching the necessary skills to properly utilize the magnifier. Field of view (what you actually see through the magnifier) is another important thing to consider. For example, as magnifiers go up in strength, the field of view becomes smaller and the focal distance shorter. This requires the materials to be held closer to the eyes. A variety of magnifiers are available with differences in shape, size, and power. The four most common types of magnifiers are: hand, stand, spectacle, and electronic.

The most popular, and recognizable type of magnifier is the hand magnifier. Many individuals find these magnifiers easy to use, being that they are portable and relatively lightweight. The user can also adjust the distance between the eye and the lens, creating a greater working range. To achieve maximum benefit, the magnifier has to be held steadily at the correct focal distance, which in some situations can be challenging.

Stand magnifiers have a preset focal distance, and rest directly on the surface of reading material. Most stand magnifiers are equipped with self-contained illumination, providing additional lighting. It is a great option for those who have a hard time holding the hand magnifier. When using the stand magnifier it is best to look directly into the lens preventing distortion. It is not ideal for writing, as many of the frames obstruct the pen. Both hand and stand magnifiers are designed for quick reading tasks. Typically, theyre used for reading newspapers, labels, menus, mail, recipes, and more.

Spectacle magnifiers are strong lenses that look similar to glasses, but are for reading only. This type of magnifier is beneficial because both hands remain free to adjust reading or writing materials. The field of view when wearing them is larger than hand and stand magnifiers, but the working distance is shorter. This is due to the fact that the user is required to hold material closer than usual in order to read.

Electronic magnifiers, or Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTVS), are powerful tools in helping people overcome vision obstacles .A CCTV is a reading system that enables users to zoom in and read a variety of materials. It uses a stand-mounted, or hand-held video camera to project a magnified image onto a monitor. The stand-mounted has a larger screen than hand-held, and works well when the viewing material is placed flat on the units viewing surface. The hand-held is more portable, making it possible to position the camera on the material. CCTVs are most useful with adequate training.

Magnifiers are only part of the solution and must be chosen carefully! While the right magnifier can help, the wrong magnifier can be frustrating. Many drug-stores carry low-powered versions of hand, stand, and spectacle magnifiers, but their strength are generally not strong enough for those with significant sight loss. The Low Vision Staff at CSBPS assesses remaining vision, helping to determine the most appropriate magnifier for your individual goals and needs, and teach skills for effective use.

For further information, contact Community Services for the Blind and Partially Sighted.We are a nonprofit agency, serving people in King, Snohomish, and Skagit counties.Vision rehabilitation services include; Low Vision Clinic (in Seattle, Bremerton, and Sedro Woolley), social work, rehabilitation, mobility, and computer training, as well as an adaptive aids store, Sight Connection.Reach CSBPS at 1(800) 458-4888,, or