Vision impairment can be a significant barrier to completing farm tasks safely and efficiently, but many vision problems such as cataracts are treatable. Farmers are an at-risk population for cataracts and the Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility Project reminds farmers that there are ways to prevent cataracts and accommodate low vision or loss of vision in everyday farming tasks.
Estimates indicate that one in seven people in the United States has a cataract. That statistic applies to farmers as well as the general public. A cataract is a clouding of the normal clear lens of the eye, preventing light from passing through to focus properly on the retina. If you believe you have a cataract, see your family eye doctor for a complete examination. Symptoms of a cataract may include increased nearsightedness; sensitivity to light and glare, especially while driving at night; blurred vision; distorted images in either eye; changes in the way you see colors, or colors seem faded; cloudy, filmy or fuzzy vision; double vision; frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription; changes in the color of the pupil; poor night vision. Medical advances make it possible to successfully treat cataracts with surgery. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgical procedure in the United States and has more than a 90% success rate.
Farming with any vision impairment, including a cataract, can be challenging and dangerous. If you find yourself trying to farm with impaired sight, the following tips from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired can make farm chores a bit safer:
- Hang wind chimes outside the house as an audible landmark. “Tune” farm buildings by using different chimes to identify different buildings.
- Suspend a tennis or playground ball from a piece of twine to mark when to stop a vehicle as you drive into a building. The idea is that when the vehicle’s windshield bumps into the ball it’s time to stop.
- Make sure work areas and walkways are well lighted and that light bulbs are checked and replaced regularly.
- Color code tools like rakes, hoes and shovels by wrapping a wide band of colored duct or electrical tape around the handles.
- Wrap rubber bands around handles to distinguish between regular and Phillips head screw drivers. Do the same with metric wrenches in the tool box to distinguish them from standard wrenches.
- Hang an old burlap feed bag about two feet away from a low-hanging beam or light fixture as a reminder to duck your head. Burlap works best because it is more likely to catch on a cap than smoother materials.
- Prevent eye damage by wearing sunglasses that block UVA/UVB rays and a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors to reduce exposing eyes to ultraviolet light.
For more information about farming with a disability, visit the Mid-Atlantic Agrability Web site at www.mid-atlanticagrability.com or call 1-877-204-3276 to make an appointment with an AgrAbility Case Manager.