How Proper Lighting Can Help You and Your Low Vision

Proper lighting can be very important, especially for people with low vision. The ideal type of lighting for a given person may vary depending on their condition and the nature of the task that they wish to perform. Positioning of the light source can also contribute to its effectiveness.

How Proper Lighting Can Help You and Your Low Vision in Olympia

Lighting for Low Vision

Low vision can make many different daily tasks, such as reading, cooking, or working, a major challenge. One of the ways to deal with low vision is to ensure that there is proper lighting as it can help a person effectively see and it can even reduce the amount of magnification required to perform certain tasks. Proper lighting provides high definition and resolution and it also facilitates adequate contrast to distinguish between an object and its background.

When you’re setting up lighting, you want to make sure that it does not cause glare because that can make it harder to see. It is important to consult with a low vision optometrist who understands the different qualities of light in order to achieve the best light conditions for your visual needs.

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Qualities of Light

There are different qualities of light, which are described below. Understanding how to distinguish between different kinds of light can help you choose which lighting is right for you and for your needs.


A Watt measures how much energy is being used by a product. You can think of it similarly to how much battery is being used on your cell phone. With the introduction of newer, more energy efficient lights such as LEDs, it is no longer useful to use Watts as a measurement of how strong your lights are.


This is a measurement of how much light is visible to the human eye so the higher the lumen, the brighter the light will be. It is a more conventional and relevant way of measuring light output, as opposed to wattage. A Watt measures power consumption, whereas a lumen provides the measurement of light output.


Lux, also known as illuminance, measures how intense a light is on a surface. A lux is equal to one lumen per square meter. A typical household living room has around 50 lux while a grocery store has 750 lux. 

Color Rendering Index (CRI)

Color rendering is a quantitative measurement of how the colors of an object will appear in a certain light source compared to how it would appear in sunlight. A high CRI means that the light source provides good color perception compared to sunlight. When looking for lighting for someone with low vision, you should choose lighting with a CRI of 80 or higher as it provides good color perception.

Color Temperature

Color temperature is a little more subjective, meaning some people may find that they see better with a specific color temperature. This term is used to describe the appearance of light from a light bulb and it is measured in Kelvin. The color temperature will either be more warm with yellow, red or orange or colder like white or blue. Most people stay away from lighting at either end of the spectrum as the lighting is either extremely warm or cold. Low vision optometrists will often recommend lighting that has adjustable color temperature, which allows for the greatest flexibility. Some people will find that colder temperature lighting is better for daylight hours while warmer temperatures are better at night. 

Types of Lighting Available to Low Vision Patients

Types of Lighting Available to Low Vision Patients

There are different kinds of light which will be discussed below and each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. It is important to understand the different types of light that are available in order to be able to achieve daily tasks in the most comfortable way despite your low vision diagnosis. 


This lighting was the most common type of light you’d find around a typical home until around 2010. It is considered safe for the retina, however it is not an economic choice and it is not good for color perception or for contrast. It is often referred to as yellow light because it is distinctive for its yellowish color.


Halogen is good for contrast and for providing a lot of light, but it emits excessive heat. This can be uncomfortable and hazardous, especially if you’re working close to it, as many people with low vision tend to do.

Types of Lighting Available to Low Vision Patients


Fluorescent lighting is very often used in public places, such as schools or hospitals and is considered to be energy efficient, bright, economical and safe for the eyes. It is more energy efficient than incandescent or halogen lights and it is not as expensive as LEDs. Fluorescents are not always so easy on the eyes, but it has a range of color temperature flexibility which can be very useful.

LED (Light Emitting Diode)

These lights are recommended for their durability, efficiency and small size. The initial purchase can be expensive, but they are long lasting and do not require much maintenance. This type of light is an extremely adaptable lighting technology that is very innovative for people with vision loss. LED’s can be made in any shape and size, and can have full spectrum, dimming, changeable color temperatures, and when properly designed are cool to the touch. 


Full spectrum light is a term used to describe illumination that is the closest to mimicking natural sunlight so it boasts a high color rendering index. It includes the entire color range which is helpful for people who have difficulty with contrast sensitivity because full spectrum lighting can help make colors more discernible and crisp. Artists, graphic designers, and museums will generally look for full spectrum lighting in order to ensure that they can discern minute changes to the color. 

Lighting Placement

While the type of light is important, the placement of the light has a great impact as well. Your low vision optometrist will discuss with you which tasks are important for you to accomplish that are challenging due to low vision. You will then be advised as to which lights are appropriate for different scenarios and how to set up your lighting in the optimal way. The low vision optometrist will give you different tips for specific tasks. For example, it is easier to watch television in a room that is lit, as opposed to a dark room. In order to check if there is glare on the TV screen you can turn the TV off and see if the light is hitting on the screen and then readjust.

Tips for Better Lighting

There are many factors to keep in mind when you’re setting up your illumination. For example, when doing something requiring attention to detail, such as reading, you don’t want the light to be too far away as too much distance means less illumination reaches the page. The further away that the light is placed, the more powerful it will need to be. Conversely, having the light too close to the page can be overpowering and make it harder to read.

It is advisable to have directional lighting such as floor and table lamps, which have an effect on the surfaces where you read or need improved lighting. Adjustable stands are recommended, as they grant increased flexibility regarding the angle the light is at. Very often, low vision optometrists will recommend lighting that is adjustable which allows you to bring the lamp closer or farther away as needed. Keep in mind that sometimes when you bring a lamp very close to you, the heat emitted could become uncomfortable. A good tip to solve that issue is to use a lamp with a double shade, also known as an internal reflector which reduces the level of heat and allows the user to keep the light in the precise position needed, even if that’s close to your face. Also, you might want to avoid using a metal shade for a lamp that is placed close to you because it can become very hot.

Types of Lighting Available to Low Vision Patients

Specific lights can also be placed in key areas where they’ll be needed. For example, you can put lights by kitchen cabinets or work areas. In addition to adding direct lighting to your home or workspace, indirect lighting such as ceiling or wall lights are important. Increasing the amount of light in the hall, stairways, living room, and bathroom are important as they make it easier to navigate, especially for someone with vision loss. In addition to direct lighting, it is always recommended to improve the overall lighting to assist those with low vision. Dimmer switches and timers can also be utilized to control how much light is in a space at any given time.

Dr. Zurcher cartoon


Lighting is very important especially for people with low vision, though it can be a bit of a challenge, at times, to determine just what type of lighting, and which lighting devices you will need. A consultation with a low vision optometrist can help you make those decisions, and the low vision doctor can also recommend high quality lighting products specifically tailored to your needs and to your set up at home and at work. If you are experiencing low vision, you can contact American Family Vision Clinic at (360) 491-2121 to schedule a low vision eye  exam and consultation, or you can click here Book an Appointment . Patients with low vision visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of low vision services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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