Cincinnati Low Vision: Magnifiers and Other Low Vision Devices

Dr. Winkler offers a wide selection of magnifiers and other devices to assist the visually impaired. We dispense products from all of the highest quality low vision manufacturers such as Eschenbach, Mattingly, and Optelec.

Below is an overview of some of the various low vision devices that are available. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all that is available, but rather an introduction to low vision devices. As with all magnifiers, the challenge rests in choosing the most appropriate level of magnification. If the level of magnification is too weak, the magnifier won’t be effective. If too strong, the field of view will be too restricted.

Handheld Magnifier

As their name implies, these are a magnifying glass with a small handle, sometimes with a light and sometimes without. They are small enough to carry in a purse or pocket and great for spot reading price tags, restaurant menus and other such items. They are not as comfortable for extended periods of reading as the other near magnifiers listed below.

Special Strong Reading Glasses

A Low Vision doctor prescribes very strong reading glasses. The glasses must be used with proper task lighting, and the patient must learn to hold reading material at the proper distance where the glasses focus. The advantage of reading glasses is that they free up the hands so that no magnifiers have to be held. There are various categories of low vision reading glasses.

Stand Magnifier

Stand magnifiers typically have an LED light built into the handle. The magnifying lens viewing area is encased in a box that allows the unit to rest directly on the reading material, which helps to eliminate fatigue in holding the magnifier.

Video Magnifier

These devices are available in sizes ranging from the size of a large cell phone or as big as a desktop computer. The small, portable versions are handheld units that can be placed directly above the reading material. A miniature camera and lighting system on the bottom display the printed material on a small screen located on the top of the unit. The degree of magnification can be increased or decreased as needed.

The larger versions are referred to as CCTV’s (closed circuit TV’s), and have a tray where the object to be viewed rests. A small camera transmits the image from the tray to a large monitor. The image can be either text or photographs. CCTV’s are so large that they have essentially no mobile capabilities; they are typically placed on a table or desk. They have the ability to magnify images very substantially.

Handheld Telescope

These are miniature telescopes that are used to view objects that are farther away, such as reading signs, distinguishing people’s faces, reading the menu at a fast food restaurant, the aisle signs in grocery stores, and even the prices on the bottom or top shelves at a store. Like their near point counterpart, the handheld magnifier, they are small enough to be held in one hand.

Telescopic Glasses

There are several different categories of telescopic glasses. Telescopes can also be mounted into a pair of glasses for extended viewing sessions such as watching TV, seeing a performance or ceremony, or attending a sporting event, however, when mounted in the central position, walking or driving is not allowed. In order to allow for mobility when wearing telescopic glasses, the telescopes must be mounted in a very high position. These are called bioptic telescopes, or bioptic lens systems. Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana all allow driving with bioptic telescopes, but with very stringent requirements.


An additional component to helping people with low vision to maximize their vision is lighting. Without proper lighting the correct magnification is often useless. Proper lighting is known to be so significant for low vision patients that many devices now incorporate lighting in the device itself. There are even tasks that may not involve the need for magnification but do require proper lighting; therefore, it’s often important for patients to explore task lighting options and styles. An interesting thing about task lighting is that it differs for each person. No one can decide for someone else what the best type of lighting would be. The only way to determine this is to have the patient work with the various task lights to determine for themselves which type helps the most. Incandescent, fluorescent and LED (light emitting diode) represent the three categories of task lighting.

Glare sensitivity

Many eye diseases can create glare sensitivity. At the same time, however, those with low vision may also have reduced contrast. Therefore, this means that images are not as bold to the low vision patient as to those with normal eyesight. Furthermore, sunglasses are usually only available in gray or brown at regular eye doctors’ offices or retail stores. For low vision patients, gray and brown may be too dark. Dark sunglasses often just make vision even duller for those with reduced vision. The combination of reduced vision, reduced contrast, and increased glare sensitivity can combine to make the low vision patient’s situation all the more challenging.

The goal of addressing glare sensitivity and poor contrast is to keep patients visually comfortable and safe. We want to reduce glare while maximizing contrast.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Todd Winkler to experience what Low Vision devices can do for you, please click here.

Dr. Todd Winkler, 8154 Montgomery Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45236 (513) 791-3556