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Tools and Techniques for Visual Impairment

by Connie Kleinbeck, RN, BSN, CDE

The use of contrasting colors can make locating dishes and food easier. Instead of placing white dishes on a white tablecloth and serving white foods such as mashed potatoes, try placing white dishes on a brightly colored tablecloth or place mats and serving colorful food. (As a bonus, brightly colored fruits and vegetables tend to be higher in nutrients than pale ones.)

Pouring liquids can be challenging. Using a container with a spout may make pouring easier. To decrease spills on the floor or counter, put your cup or bowl on a cookie sheet, pie pan, or tray when pouring or carrying liquid. Some people pour milk or juice into a colored glass to better see the level of fluid. A nonvisual technique is to place a finger inside a cup to judge fluid levels. You can also judge the level by sound and by how heavy the container feels. Some people prefer to use an audio liquid level indicator, which hooks over a cup or glass and beeps when fluid is about an inch from the top of the container.

Measuring out portions of food with measuring cups or spoons will make your carbohydrate counting or exchange calculations more accurate. Look for measuring cups and spoons that are color-coded or marked with raised bumps or letters for easy identification. To make portions of foods such as breakfast cereal easier to measure, first pour the entire box into a resealable, wide-mouth, storage container. Measuring out small amounts of oil or salad dressing may similarly be easier if the liquid is stored in a wide-mouth container; just dip in your measuring spoon to remove the portion you want. Another way to judge portion sizes is to pour a measured amount of water or breakfast cereal into the cups, glasses, and bowls you commonly use and note how full they are.

Restaurant serving tools such as ladles or scoops can help with portion control as well as improve safety when serving hot foods. Cutting food is easier and safer when a slicing guide is used. There are various styles of slicing guides, but most help hold the food steady while guiding the knife to make a straight cut. Using a cutting board also makes cutting food safer.

Diabetes care
Diabetes can be managed safely and independently with visual impairment, but it helps a lot to work with a certified diabetes educator or low-vision rehabilitation specialist to learn the ropes. The person you work with should be knowledgeable about devices that can assist with diabetes self-management such as talking blood glucose meters, bathroom scales, blood pressure monitors, thermometers, and prescription bottle holders. Devices that don’t talk but that emit audible clicks or beeps can also be useful.

Insulin administration. Many people with low vision use insulin pens instead of syringes. With any pen, a new pen needle must be screwed onto the end of the pen for each injection. A “test shot” of one to two units is dialed in, and the delivery button of the pen is pressed, filling the needle with insulin. By holding one hand near the pen needle, you can feel a drop of insulin on your skin, and you may notice the smell of insulin. The desired dose is then dialed in by counting the clicks or feeling the raised bumps. Once the insulin has been injected, the pen should be held in place with the needle under the skin for a count of 5–10 to make sure the full dose is given.

For those who use syringes, syringe magnifiers or devices that hold the syringe and insulin vial can help with drawing up the correct doses. These devices can typically be purchased either at the pharmacy or directly from the manufacturer. (See “Product Manufacturers and Distributors” for more information about where to purchase assistive devices.) Products currently available include the following:

  • Count-a-Dose, a Medicool product, is a device for filling BD 50-unit syringes. It holds two insulin vials so that different types of insulin can be mixed, and it makes a distinct click that can be both heard and felt with each unit of insulin drawn into the syringe.
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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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