The differences between having some useful vision and not having any useful vision

JennyBy Jenny

Having already been severely sight impaired, I’ve recently lost a significant amount of vision.

There are things I can still do and some I almost took for granted that I cannot do now. There are other things I now find difficult that I have had to find new ways to make manageable again.

What I already used feel for instead of vision

  • Tying my shoelaces
  • Brushing my hair
  • Washing up
  • Identifying loose change

What I can still do

  • Brushing my teeth – although putting the toothpaste on the brush can be a very messy and fun experience!!
  • Shower and dress myself.
  • Identify clothes – although I do have two cardigans that are very similar and once thought I was wearing the white one until a friend commented I was looking pretty in green!!
  • Use my hob and oven – both are gas. I can tell which gas mark I want by putting the dial in a certain position – for example gas mark 6 is at a 4/5 o’clock position (using the clock face method). It’s pretty easy to tell just by listening if the gas has been lit or not when using the hob.
  • Prepare and cook meals – I still do a lot on the hob, using saucepans and a wok.
  • Use the microwave – it’s a talking one!
  • Use my iphone and ipad – as soon as I started using Apple products I started using Voiceover and rely on that.
  • Type quickly – thankfully I learnt to touch type at a very young age and it’s an incredibly useful skill to have.
  • Read curled up in bed – I can read braille and I also listen to books on ibooks with Voiceover. I know a lot of people dislike the synthetic voice but I can get past that and appreciate the fact I can read books just like anyone else as soon as they are released.
  • Make a hot water bottle – I use my hearing and know the exact sound to listen out for when the water from the kettle is being poured directly into the bottle.
  • Make myself cold drinks – using the finger trick.
  • Work – it is ideal that I work at a school and college for the visually impaired. My line manager has been very supportive and my job role/title has been adapted slightly so I can still work without too much difficulty.
  • Use my clock – I have memorised where the buttons for the alarm and sleep feature are.
  • Use my stereo – having presets helps me switch stations
  • Clean my toilet!
  • Clean my kitchen surfaces.
  • Make my bed.
  • Locate objects – if you visited my house you would probably think I’m untidy but I call it an ‘organised mess’! I can pretty much lay my hands on anything I need straight away,. Everything has its place and if it gets accidently moved, even by a few inches it totally throws me.

What I’ve found difficult

These things I have had to learn new coping strategies for:

Navigating indoors

I have found I need to remember to close doors behind me or I’ll forget if they are open or not and get a nasty surprise when I walk into the end of an open door!

I have also found deliberately walking into objects gives me a good reference point to where I am in a room. For example my dining/living room is open-plan and I know I have entered the living room part when I walk into the back of one of my sofas!

Going into the dining room part from the living room from part, I deliberately walk into the end of the table!

In my bedroom I know if I walk into my wardrobe I need to turn 45 degrees and walk about 5 paces and I will reach my bed.

If people saw me doing this they would probably try and warn me that I am about to walk into something because they don’t realise I need to on purpose, it probably looks quite strange to them. Because I know what I’m aiming for, I am prepared and never hurt myself.

Using my oven

I used to be able to use the timer on my oven because the display has very large, bright red numbers. Now I can’t see the light from the numbers let alone tell what numbers they are, so I use my phone’s timer instead.


I get some letters in braille but, I quite a few still in print, mainly hospital appointment letters!

I used to be able to use my 11x hand held LED light magnifier to read letters. Now I use an app on my iphone called ‘Text Detective’. But you need incredible amounts of patience (and lots of spare time) to use this app. it can take ages for it to identify text and you must have the phone held at just the right height and angle.

Another thing I do is video call my parents and they read the letter. There is a lot of “left a bit, no left, down a bit, no not that way, the other way, now a little right …” from their end accompanied by lots of sighs of frustration but we have managed to complete a few letters successfully!

Making hot drinks

I used to rely on seeing the colour of tea change when I added milk and rarely needed a level indicator – now I use one every time. Some people refuse to use level indicators and just use their finger to check. But my aim isn’t exactly accurate at the moment and a lot of water ends up on the work surface and not in the cup so I’m afraid of burning myself. Strangely though I have no problems with filling my hot water bottle as mentioned above and haven’t burnt myself yet

Using my computer

I consider myself a visual learner (yes even though I am visually impaired). I think mainly due to auditory processing issues, I find it incredibly hard adjusting to relying solely on speech when using Windows PCs.

Funnily enough I do not have too many difficulties relying on just using the speech for reading short pieces of text and have never had issues with navigating the ipad or iphone with just speech.

The difficulties occur when writing Word documents or emails. I would say I am a fairly decent speller but recently I have had massive problems spelling words, even ones I know. I think this is because I like to be able to ‘see’ what I have written too. I used magnification software on Windows computers right up until I could no longer see the screen, because I really need that visual back-up as well as speech output. I have a braille display which does both input and output braille. It can be linked up to my phone, ipad or computer. I am using this more regularly now and find it helps to give me that much needed visual output.

Finding my house

I have tape on my gate that I used to use identify my house from all the other houses on our terrace street. Now I look for a certain lamp post when coming from one direction and plants growing in the wall when coming from the other direction.

Things I find difficult

I have not found a solution for these things yet:

Matching things

Matching up specific sets of things, such as pyjamas and bedding – I recently discovered I was wearing a pyjama top from one set and the bottoms from another. When I made my bed I realised I had no idea if my duvet cover and pillow cases matched – all my sets feel pretty much the same!

Identifying things

Before a friend came to watch a film we discussed which film to watch. She asked if I had the chosen DVD. I suddenly realised I couldn’t check. Although my vision was never good enough for me to read titles on DVDs or CDs (even using my magnifier was difficult), I could usually identify films or artist by the colours on the cover.

Online photos

Now I truly understand the frustrations vented by other VIPs when someone does not give a description of the picture they are posting. This also applies to links – often I have no idea what content people are sharing – Facebook just says “… posted a link”.

Paper money

I used to tell notes apart by colour, I know you can get note detectors – I have a cardboard frame one somewhere

Cash machines

Barclays have talking ATMs but the nearest branch is in town and I’m not yet travelling independently there. My local supermarket does not do cash-back. I used to be able to not exactly read the cash machine screen, but more recognise where in the process I was, with certain machines, namely NatWest unless the sun was glaring on the screen as it regularly was.

Washing machine

I do have ‘bump ons’ on the dial but I used to be able to see which spin and speed etc function was selected by the position of a red light, now I can’t see that at all.


I can no longer see the red flashing light that signals a new message.


Since my vision loss my sleeping pattern has altered dramatically. I now go to sleep for 2 hours, then wake up again and stay wide awake for 3 or 4 hours. It is extremely frustrating. Circardin doesn’t help and just gives me migraines


I’ve left out quite a few things out of this list. I’ve not mentioned navigating outdoors with my cane at all and my guide dog recently retired..

I really hope my experiences may be able to help people in similar situations.

Do you have any advice for Jenny?
Leave a comment below.

Have you experienced sight loss?
Tell your story.

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7 Responses to The differences between having some useful vision and not having any useful vision

  1. Jessi says:

    Hi Jenny.

    Are you able to share what caused your eye conditions are and what caused your recent vision loss? Also do you have any recommendations for how parents can prepare VI children for a more independent future?

  2. Mike Scrase says:

    On having your parents read your letters – character recognition has been improving, and I understand that certain scanners come with software that will convert an image file to text. From there, as you probably already know, you could have your computer read the text.

    The scanner I use for digitizing my drawings ready for colouring is compatible with this although I haven’t bought the specific software that is required for it. I use a Mustek 600 Pro USB A3 scanner, but you probably don’t need something quite that extravagant just to convert images to text. It might be worth researching and finding something that would work for you.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    Paper money. The £20 is the largest £10 is slightly smaller & £5 is the smallest ok it takes a bit of time but it does work hope this helps. Good luck

  4. Georgina stephenson says:

    If you get some textured and mixed sized button sets that feel different you can stitch matching button in your duvet and pillowcases making them easy to match. Same for pyjamas and even to the top of socks. Hope this helps.

  5. Georgina stephenson says:

    When making hot drinks place the mug on a lipped tray. If you spill any of the liquid it will remain in the tray and can be easily cleaned up when the water has cooled.

  6. Robert Long says:

    Hi Jenny, I’m totally blind and have no eyes, lost them 6 years ago. For the toothpaste, just squirt it in your mouth rather then try and get it on the toothbrush, I find this much easier to assess how much toothpaste I’m squirting.

    For matching clothes, bedding etc. Using an app called Tap Tap See has literally changed my life. You can take a picture of anything and it will briefly describe what it is. I use it for cooking and distinguishing between different cans of food and spices, also with money you can take pictures of it and it will tell you the note and the currency. It’s a subscription of approx £70 per year but there is a free trial and it’s worth it for those of us who can’t see at all, in more situations then I’ve mentioned here.

    Great article, I use many of the same techniques myself of bumping around the house.

    Thanks, Rob

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