Beyond the Books: Serving the Vision Impaired – Hingham Anchor

Photos courtesy of Sara Mason Ader

January 27, 2022 By Sara Mason Ader
At the age of 18, my daughter developed a highly unusual, painful and severe eye infection that delayed the start of her college career and ended up robbing her permanently of vision in her right eye. Fortunately, after working with the excellent cornea specialists at Mass Eye & Ear Infirmary, my daughter wears a corrective contact lens in her damaged eye that miraculously regains her a fair amount of vision for daily life. But even with this amazing contact lens, she’s lost her ability to read small print or regular edition books. They make her feel dizzy and cross-eyed, which can be typical of people who suffer damage in one eye after about age 8 or 9. The brain is too mature at that point to compensate by creating new pathways as it often can in the case of someone who was born with or has experienced damage in one eye at a younger age.
Millions of Americans have a vision impairment that makes reading standard-issue books difficult, if not impossible. Although it’s widely known that many older people struggle to see fine print clearly, the CDC reports that 6.8% of U.S. children under the age of 18 have trouble seeing even with corrective lenses. More than 4 million American adults over age 40 have problems with vision that are not correctible.
If you have someone in your life who struggles with a vision impairment, you may know how hard it is to get your hands on large-print editions of current books. Bookstores don’t tend to keep them in stock. If you ask to special order them, you’ll learn publishers don’t print many of them anymore. And, the ones that are available can be quite costly, even on Amazon if you are lucky enough to find what you need there.
Thank goodness for the Hingham Public Library! Did you know that our library owns more than 4,500 large print books? Its collection covers a diverse range of topics and literary genres, and it takes up an entire room full of shelves stocked from floor to ceiling. The first time my daughter and I discovered the large-print room at our library, we were both close to tears of joy. Nearly all of her college course materials and textbooks have been available electronically, but her eyes tire of looking at screens. She’d been yearning for large-print books that she could curl up with for the pleasure of leisure reading, and now she knew where to find them!

And if there was something she couldn’t find on the shelves, we learned that over 20,000 large-print titles are available through the Old Colony Library Network, which can be sent to Hingham on request. To view what’s available and to place a hold request, all that’s necessary is to visit and type “Large Print” in the search box at the top. From there, the entire catalog of large-print books is available to place hold requests on any of the items in the 28-member library network.
For some readers, large print may not be enough. The library has a collection of 72,000 ebooks available digitally, so that text size can be adjusted to meet the reader’s visual needs.
Large-print and ebooks are popular in Hingham, according to Library Director Linda Harper. In the last fiscal year alone, Hingham patrons checked out over 4,400 large-print books and more than 51,000 ebooks, she reports.
I would encourage you to investigate for yourself our library’s impressive collection of large-print editions. Even if you do not require large print for your own pleasure reading, you’ll be happy to know our library is eagerly serving readers—both young and old—who do.
Stay tuned for information coming soon about a celebratory fundraising event at the library in May.

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