Seven top tips on reducing visual distortion
Visual distortion is when either the eyes or the vision centre of the brain dont see normally. Some common types of visual distortion are double or shadowed vision, moving words or letters, low contrast (washed out), glare or rivers of white space between text - to name a few.
There can be a number of causes, but examples include eyesight issues, binocular instability, dyslexia, concussion or head trauma, ADD-ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, chronic fatigue, headaches and migraines or Irlen Syndrome.
Here are seven simple tips to help reduce visual distortion:
1. Seek a professional opinion: getting to the underlying cause of your vision distortion will always be the safest and most effective way to manage any visual symptoms. Like any profession, optometrists have their own sub-specialties, so it is important to find an optometrist who specialises in vision-related learning difficulties, post-concussion/trauma vision syndrome, Irlen’s Syndrome or visual-neurological conditions.
Of course, we would recommend our own principal optometrist, Danielle Ross, who is experienced in these areas and also practices an integrative approach with other medical specialists in these fields to ensure your entire wellbeing is considered (click here to book an appointment).
2. Fonts: some text fonts are much harder for the visual part of the brain to process than others; here is a list of common visual-friendly fonts:
- Comic Sans
There are also some specifically developed, open source fonts such as Open Dyslexic and Dyslexie, but you don’t need to be dyslexic to find these fonts helpful.
There is no special diagnosis to find out which font type suits you best – try a few and see what works best for you. The best fonts often avoid curvy, flicky, fancy bits. Less is more here.
3. Change the Colour: in a similar way that changing the type of font you use can reduce visual stress, changing the background colour, font colour or both, can also be hugely helpful in reducing visual distortion.
Official Irlen Syndrome filters are available from OCULA. However, laminating coloured A4 sheets of cellophane, or coloured punched pockets can work just as well. Here's some tips on using coloured filters.
Using coloured writing pads and different coloured pens/pencils can also have a great effect.
Whiteboards are often helpful learning tools for children and are also often used in the workplace. However, if glare is a problem, consider a coloured 'whiteboard’ or make your own using coloured paper and a laminator. A DIY board allows you the freedom to add ruled lines, squares etc. to help with visual guidance.
Free software, such as flux, can change the background colour of your computer screen. And in the background settings of most computers and smartphones, you can change the font and background colours.
Our vision therapist, Rachel, or our optometrist, Danielle, are both Irlen Assessors and can help you find the best colours for you as well as the ones you should avoid (click here to book an appointment).
4. A Kindle: digital reading devices make changing font type, font colour, font size and background colour so much easier.
5. Reading windows, guides and rulers: reading highlighter strips, rulers or windows, especially if they are in your preferred colour (see number 3 above) can be helpful to mask surrounding words and increase concentration.
Pointers – either finger, pencil or something novelty – are hugely helpful to maintain fixation if tracking is an issue.
OCULA have a variety of reading windows and rulers in store, but again, if you’re crafty, a DIY version can be made from cutting and laminating coloured sheets of cellophane.
It’s important here to point out (excuse the pun), that often we only recommend these tools to aide tracking temporarily and as required – getting to the bottom of any eye tracking issues with a specialist optometrist is much more effective long-term.
6. Reduce glare: try and reduce any sources of strong or overly direct light (sunny windows, spot lights etc). Reflections from shiny, white or light-coloured surfaces also cause glare.
Beware of shadows over the page, computer or desk. Try to create an environment with a constant and evenly dispersed light by using blinds over sunny windows and avoiding flicker-type light sources such as fluorescent tubes.
Visual stress is reduced when the eyes don’t have to compensate for changing lighting conditions.
7. Slant boards: if vertical tracking (i.e. coping from the board) is a challenge, raising the work surface to a 22-degree angle brings the surface more parallel to the face. Reading and writing at this angle is much more natural and comfortable and improves visual performance.
Slant boards are also available from OCULA.
Click here for some more tips on good visual habits.