Vision Differences




Elaina was just diagnosed with the early stages of macular degeneration. The condition is progressive so while Elaina currently maintains some vision, this will gradually worsen over time. The effects of macular degeneration impact the central area of vision so what Elaina looks at directly will be the most difficult to see.

Below is what Elaina experiences as a result of macular degeneration. Images provided by

Boy's face obscured by black spot.Text obscured by dark spot.










Adjusting to this news is a challenge for Elaina as it will greatly impact her lifestyle. She does, however, intend to continue with her plans to complete a graduate degree online. She is beginning to familiarize herself with some of the challenges and solutions.


  • Graphics pose a challenge as she cannot see what she’s looking at directly. She must rely then on alternate text for images that provide her with a text description of what the graphic is and how it relates to the content.
  • Sometimes color is used to denote meaning without a text explanation, which is meaning lost on Elaina.
  • Some websites and web-based technologies contain links that just don’t make sense to a screen reader, which Elaina is now relying on.
  • Some videos rely heavily on the graphics and visuals, without audio narrative to explain what’s happening. When no alternative is provided, Elaina misses out on whatever valuable information is being shared.
  • Some assignments in her graduate courses require her to put together a visual presentation, which is challenging for her due to her disability and therefore not necessarily a true indicator of what she has learned and skills she has developed in the course.
  • Some or most of the course material is scanned copies of content or visuals that her screen reader is not able to read for her.

Another common visual disability is color-blindness. Below is an example provided by that demonstrates how color used to depict meaning will not work for someone who is color-blind. Both images show the same map but lines depicted using color are lost on someone who is color-blind.


Map with various colors denoting meaning.Map in all black and white, no color.








Impairment Simulator

The above is a simulator that allows you to explore various visual and hearing disabilities and their impact on sight and sound.


While Elaina’s story is a common one, there are many potential challenges related to a wide variety of visual disabilities. To learn more about:


More questions? Visit the ODEE Resource Center: Accessibility or email