Low Vision News

For low vision specialists and those who consult them

Lighting for reading with low vision: The type doesn’t matter!

I received an email from the Macular Disease Support this week advertising a new lamp for people with macular disease to use when reading. Apparently it’s the result of “10 years research” and is “very affordable” (although at $140 +$20 shipping I’m not so sure).

Apparently this light “meets all requirements for best vision” and the advert links to a pretty picture of text shown under different types of light. The print under this light does indeed look clear. However, no careful scientific analysis of reading with macular disease has found any effect of lighting type on reading performance (see, for example, this paper by Frank Eperjesi). What is known is that many people with low vision have far poorer light at home than is available in low vision clinics (see this classic paper.

The message which we tell people time and time again in the low vision clinic is: the important thing isn’t the light itself, it’s where you position it (as close to the task as possible, ideally shining from over your shoulder). If someone has $160 spare to spend on lights – and not everyone with macular disease will have this disposable income – they would be far better spending it on 5 lamps which can be moved near to the task in each room of the house (one in the kitchen for recipes and food packets; one in the bedroom for reading at night, and so on).

I am sure some people will prefer the white LED in this light to a compact fluorescent or tungsten bulb, but there is no evidence that people with MD will systematically prefer this light. I have nothing against this lamp design – indeed it looks quite pretty – but wish that people wouldn’t encourage people to buy an expensive product based on their own experience rather than on scientific evidence.


One response to “Lighting for reading with low vision: The type doesn’t matter!

  1. G F Mueden September 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    With regard to “Lighting for reading with low vision: The type doesn’t matter!”: I fully agree.

    My low vision needs are not met by any “one size fits all” device. I urge everybody to buy only with well understood return agreements. In reading even the chair and how you sit are important. It may have looked great in the store, but set up in my home the special light was too bright and was returned. For CCTVs, buy from an agent, so he can set it up and help with the lighting. His help is extra if you but from a store.

    The selection of assistive tech devices is a very personal thing.

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