Macular Degeneration

February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in Americans over the age of 65. According to the Archives of Ophthalmology, April 2004, approximately 1.75 people in the US have advanced AMD with resulting vision loss, and this number is expected to nearly double by 2020. To increase awareness of AMD, Steve Kelley, certified vision rehab therapist at the Iris Network assembled a list of resources briefly outlined in the accompanying video.

Two books clients report are helpful resources include: 

The First Years, Age Related Macular Degeneration ( ) by Daniel L Roberts;

Bert’s Eye View ( )by Maine author Bert Silverman and Nina Fuller.

Both books offer many resources resources and discuss in-depth the initial impact of Macular Degeneration on those affected by the disease and their families.

It is often the case that many people experiencing vision loss or unaware of many of the adaptive daily living aids, such as tactile labels, task lighting, and magnification available through a number of mail order catalogs or through low vision clinics such as the one at the Iris Network. Three resources include:

Independent Living Aids Catalog

LS and S

American Printing House for the Blind

Some of the most common adaptive living aids include the following items that are readily available through the catalogs listed above or local sources:

Bold Lined Paper is available in either white or high contrast yellow and with various line spacing to allow for larger print.  This paper may be used for lists, phone numbers addresses or any kind of written communication.

Bold lined Pens with either a felt tip, or wider ink line are often much easier to see, particularly when the writing is larger as well. Some useful bold lined pens include:

Papermate 20/20 (this pen is usually only available online or through mail order). The following pens are available in retail stores locally:

Papermate Flair
Pilot Bravo
Uniball Impact
Bic Mark It

A large print calendar will be easier to read and allow more space to record appointments using a bold line pine. Large print calendars are available from the Iris Network for $10.45 by calling 207-774-6273.

Large Print Checks are usually available directly through your local bank. Many banks use Deluxe, Harland Clarke checks, or both for printed checks. Each has a version of a large print check, that is larger than most personal checks, and is printed with bolder lines, making them easier to read and fill out. These check companies may be contacted directly:

Deluxe Guideline Check 877-838-5287 click on personal checks;

Harland Clarke 1-800-275-1053 click on Personal Products then look for Sight Checks.

The Sight Checks were $49.95 for 150 checks through the author’s bank.

Reading the newspaper or books for leisure is often identified as one of the greatest challenges for people with AMD. Many states, including Maine offer newspaper reading services—programs that allow people to listen to local and national newspapers read by readers or computer software. In Maine, the Iris Network offers Maine Airs at no charge to people around the state with a print disability. Maine Airs features volunteer readers who read many of the state’s local newspapers and magazines. A Maine Airs receiver can be used to tune in the daily broadcast over the air, like a radio broadcast, or Maine Airs can be tuned in using the Internet by going to .For more information on Maine Airs call 800-715-0097 or go to click on the tab for Service then the tab for Maine Airs.

Outside of Maine consumers may locate local newspaper reading services by contacting the International Association of Audio Information Services at . Click on Find All Services, or call (800) 280-5325.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) offers the NFB Newsline in many states, that provides access to local and national publications through the telephone. Call
1-866-504-7300 for more information.

Accessible library books and periodicals in large print or audio formats are available in Maine through the Maine State Library Talking Books Program. There is no charge for this program, and reading mayerials will be sent directly to a consumer’s home. For more details, call 207-287-5650 or toll-free (Maine only): 1-800-762-7106. The Web site for Maine State Library is .

Outside of Maine the Talking Books Program may be contacted through the National Library Service Talking Books by calling toll-free 888-657-7323, or on the Web at

Many people with AMD may not be aware that even if one is seeing a regular ophthalmologist or optometrist a low vision exam that focuses on maximizing existing vision through the use of low vision aids and techniques is a resource covered by both Maine Care and Medicaid (with the usual co-pay). The Iris Network offers a low vision clinic in Portland Maine and will direct consumers to low vision providers in their area.

As a final note, a fun low vision product, Lou’s Large Print Playing Cards was designed by a consumer in Maine with AMD. Read the story of Lou’s Cards or by a deck by calling (207) 655-9007, or visit the Web site at

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