Resources & Links

New Zealand Low Vision Handbook

This is Retina NZ's resource book for people newly diagnosed with retinal disorders and for anybody coping with vision loss. It's available in a range of accessible formats.  For a copy, contact us on 0800 569 849.

Originally developed as Your Blue Book, the revised and updated Low Vision Handbook will help you find suitable sources of advice and assistance, and how to make your thoughts and needs clear.  There are sections on education, employment, and leisure, and also suggestions for managing around the home and when you're out and about.

What We Mean by "Low Vision"

A person is said to have low vision when their eyesight is impaired and can't be adequately corrected by surgery, contact lenses, or spectacles.  This often results in a noticeable lack of clarity or sharpness (acuity), but may also involve a reduced field of vision, light sensitivity, distorted vision, or loss of contrast.

Low vision can affect spatial judgment, balance, and hand and eye coordination, making many different aspects of life challenging.  Driving and playing some kinds of sport aren’t options.  People with low vision may also have difficulty with:

  • going down steps, and walking over uneven ground,
  • going from a brightly-lit room into a darker one (or vice versa),
  • recognising faces in the street, and/or
  • doing everyday activities like cooking, cleaning, reading, and watching TV.

Retinal Disorders

Your retina is the light-sensing layer at the back of your eye. Like the film in a camera, it picks up images which are transmitted to your brain via your optic nerve.

Your brain does the real work of seeing, making sense of all those images.  Any damage or deterioration in your eye or optic nerve that reduces the quality of the images your brain gets can affect your ability to see.

Diagram of an eye. Retina with parts labelled.

In some retinal disorders there is a gradual deterioration of the whole retina, while other conditions affect only part of the retina.

The type and severity of the symptoms vary according to the disorder. Common symptoms are loss of night vision and side vision in retinitis pigmentosa (RP), and loss of straight ahead (central) vision in macular degeneration (MD).

The macula enables us to see detail, so any damage to it affects our ability to read or do anything that requires precise vision, such as driving.

Find Out More

In the 1980s when Retina NZ began, it was very difficult for people with retinal conditions to find information they could work through at their own pace or show family and friends.  Nowadays there's so much on the Internet the question is, Where to start?

Here are some suggestions. We’ve included:

  • Selected New Zealand websites with quick summaries of the information provided, plus some other local sources of advice and assistance.
  • Selected international websites, also with quick summaries.  While much of the information on a site may be specific to that country, international sites can be a rich source of general information on vision and related health and lifestyle topics.  They're also useful if you're looking for the rarer disorders or are interested in research and clinical trials.

Accessibility Tip: The selected websites that are specifically for people with eye conditions have in-built Accessibility options. Or, for both these and other sites, anyone using Internet Explorer 7 or above or Mozilla Firefox can enlarge the font and illustration size by using the "CTRL +" keystroke. You may need to press this combination several times to reach the desired size. To return to a smaller size press "CTRL -".

If you can’t find what you’re looking for on these sites or through your own Internet searches, we may be able to help.

Click here for our peer support contact details.

Retinal photographs on this website are courtesy of the New Zealand Association of Optometrists. Other photographs in our page headers are courtesy of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.