Lighting is vital for improving the daily living of someone with vision loss. Here are some important ideas related to low vision lighting.
Proper lighting for a patient with low vision is very very important and one of the main reasons for this is because if we get really great lighting (Both in quantity and quality of light) we effectively increase the contrast of the material that has been looked at and thereby it creates a sort of magnification effect.
What we want is called the Directed Contain Light, which means the light is going to project directly onto the material that you're trying to look at. This is compared to a standard lamp where the light is gonna scatter out of the top and the bottom of the lamp shade. Low vision lamps are much more directed than decorative lamps and tend to have further options for adjusting the direction of light.
Where the light is placed can have an impact on the visual function of a person with low vision. For example if the light is going back toward the face it can create glare. Another example is to check for creating shadows on the area where attention will be focused. We like to recommend lamps where the head is adjustable and directable.
There are different situations where you may want to increase or decrease the intensity of the lamp. For example if the lamp is too bright it can cause a similar effect to when the sun is bright outside. A low vision patient may be more sensitive about glare and care should be made to check that the patient is not experiencing some glare or light sensitivity. One of the things a lot of low vision patients find useful is to have adjustable strength lamps.
Another option that we want to consider with lighting is what's called the temperature of the light. Cool lighting 5500k+ is going to have more of a daylight or a white appearance to it. Warmer color temperatures, around 4500k or lower, will have a little bit more of an orange look. Most of my patients tend to prefer the cooler warmer daylight look versus warmer. Some patients find the cooler light easier to see, but the warmer light more comforting at night. Many low vision lamps have the option to adjust color temperature.
For someone with vision loss the higher the color rendering index is, the better. Full spectrum lighting or high CRI lighting is ideal for a low vision patient because it helps show the colors more vividly. This creates a magnification effect as well as improving the ability to have improved color contrast sensitivity. When purchasing lighting for low vision we recommend full spectrum lighting or 95+ CRI