February is Low Vision Awareness Month

Published February 24, 2023

February is low vision awareness month. People with low vision are not blind, but have uncorrectable vision problems that interfere with their daily lives. It is one of the most common disabilities in the world. This article will discuss what low vision is, causes of low vision, and the digital accessibility needs of people with low vision.

What is Low Vision?

Low vision is a large and diverse category that includes people who have some usable vision but have vision loss that they cannot correct with corrective lenses and interferes with their ability to perform everyday tasks. 

Low vision does not typically include people able to correct their vision with glasses, contact lenses, or cataracts surgery. It does include people who are not able to correct their vision due to an inability to access the lenses or surgery they need. According to the World Health Organization,  of the 2.2 billion people in the world with uncorrected visual impairments, half of them have vision loss that could have been prevented or has yet to be corrected with lenses or surgery. 

Causes of low vision

The nature of a person’s visual impairment varies depending on the cause and their individual circumstances. Refractive errors such as nearsightedness and astigmatism cause blurred vision. Most people can correct their refractive error with glasses, contacts, or surgery. However, some people are unable to do so or do not have the resources to do so. Cataracts also cause blurry or cloudy vision, among other symptoms. They are also correctable for most people, but some people may not have the resources to afford the surgery.

Macular degeneration, which affects over ten million Americans, obstructs or blurs the center of the person’s field of vision. There is no cure, but some people can slow the progress of the disease with regular eye injections. 

Glaucoma is caused by high pressure in the eye and typically affects a person’s peripheral vision first. Anyone can develop glaucoma, but it affects older people more than younger people. There is no cure, but treatment can slow the progression.  

Diabetic retinopathy affects over four million Americans. Anyone with diabetes has a risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. It causes dark floating spots as well as blurred vision. 

There are also many other causes of low vision that are less common.

How to make your digital content accessible for people with low vision

Because their experiences are so varied, the accessibility solutions for people with low vision also vary. Some people with low vision use screen reading software, either on its own or in combination with their usable sight. So making sure content is accessible for screen reading software is a must.

Most people with low vision still rely mostly on their eyes to use their devices and computers. To meet their needs, sites need to be easy to read. Developers must Ensure high color contrast for low vision accessibility. Choosing accessible fonts can improve the accessibility of content. Apple, windows and android operating systems all have many options for altering the color of the display and they are highly customizable. Therefore it is important that sites never rely solely on color for meaning

Content also needs to be programmed to allow for zooming. A person with low vision might make use of the zoom feature of their browser. A person must be able touse their browser to zoom up to 200% without losing any functionality. For example, if a person uses zoom on a website, they should not have to scroll horizontally to read a line of text. The site should react by having fewer words per line.

It is also important to use consistent organization and layout. If a person with low vision can rely on menus and controls being in the same place and working the same way, they will not need to strain or concentrate to remember how to navigate a site. If the site’s design is intuitive, a person with low vision can use their general understanding of how web pages normally work to make their experience even smoother.

Because reading and interacting with a site can take longer for a person with low vision, designers should avoid putting time limits on completing inputs or activities. If time limits are necessary, such as for security purposes, sites should provide warnings and allow the user to extend their time. If a user’s login expires, the site should save their progress so they can continue after logging back in. 


Low vision is one of the most common disabilities and its prevalence will continue to increase as the population ages. People with low vision need digital content to be accessible to be able to use it. This includes content that is easy to read, allows for customization, has a consistent design and minimizes the impact of timing. And like most accessibility principles, making content that meets the needs of people with low vision also improves the experience for all users.

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