Two overlapping chairs representing seeing a chair with double vision.

Ten “odd” things I do with double vision

Seeing two of everything can be overwhelming. Here are ten things that I do to help minimize the effects of my double vision, and why.

For as long as I can remember, I have had double vision that causes me to see two of everything. The way I see double has fluctuated over time- sometimes I see two distinct images side by side, sometimes they look like a shadow, and sometimes they are stacked on top of each other. In my eyes, I see twice as many objects and people as everyone else. This is good for things like ice cream and seeing my friends, but not so good for things like stacks of homework.

Over the years, I have found better ways to explain my double vision and how it impacts my ability to access everyday objects and activities, which is especially helpful for designers, teachers, parents, and others who may be confused by the concept of seeing double. Today, I will be sharing ten “odd” things I do with double vision so that I can see the world around me.

Wait, why do you see double?

Great question! I have an eye condition called accommodative esotropia, a common childhood eye condition that causes eyes to turn inward, resulting in diplopia, also known as double vision. I also have a brain condition called Chiari Malformation, which is believed to contribute to my double vision, amongst other symptoms. Since I have both an eye and brain condition that causes double vision, I was diagnosed with decompensated strabismus, which means that my vision loss has more than one cause. As a result, my vision frequently fluctuates and I always have some form of double vision.

The intensity of my double vision can change depending on several factors, including:

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Have trouble making eye contact

Whenever I am talking to someone, I strive to make eye contact with them so I can ensure that they know I am paying attention to what they have to say. Sometimes, I end up making eye contact with the double image instead, and it sometimes looks like I am staring at whatever is behind the person. If I am in a setting where eye contact is especially important, I will ask my friend to discreetly put their hand on my shoulder to show what side the person is standing on, so I will know to look in that direction.

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Read the eye chart one line at a time

When my ophthalmologist (who specializes in double vision and adult strabismus) has me read the eye chart, they display one letter or line at a time on the screen, instead of showing me the entire chart at once. This helps to make sure that lines don’t run into each other and makes it easier for me to focus on letters. That’s why whenever I am reading print materials, I prefer to have line trackers or only have a few lines displayed at a time, so I can easily focus on what I’m supposed to be reading. Line trackers can come in many forms, from using bookmarks to track text in a book to using programs like Immersive Reader to improve the readability of websites and documents.

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Run into door frames

While my lack of depth perception causes me to frequently run into walls and similar obstacles, my double vision is actually responsible for making me run into door frames. This is because I have trouble trying to figure out how wide the door is, since the two double images often run into each other or make the door seem like it is on a different side of the wall. This is where using my blindness cane comes in handy, because I can tap the sides of the door frame and make sure I know where I am going.

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Have trouble focusing on small print

Why do people with double vision need large print? For me, seeing double images of text makes it difficult to figure out what a word actually says. For example, if the word “cell phone” is printed in a smaller font, I will read it as “cellell phonene” or otherwise have additional letters repeated at the end of the word. By having access to larger print, I can more easily distinguish words and figure out what they say.

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Miss chairs/stairs

One of my professors this semester told me that they can always tell when I am walking down the hallway because I always come to a screeching halt when I reach a set of stairs. I have to rely on my blindness cane and tactile markers to ensure that I do not step on a nonexistent stair or otherwise miss the last step and fall down.

The same professor also once witnessed me sit down on what I thought was a bench outside and turned out to be thin air, so I ended up unexpectedly sitting on the ground. As a result, I try to put my hand or my cane against a chair before I sit down so I know its general location.

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Reach for thin air

The other day, one of my friends went to hand me a stapler, and I reached out my hand for it. I momentarily realized that I was grabbing thin air and shifted my hand accordingly so I could take the stapler from their hand. Thanks to double vision, I have trouble determining the location of objects and will sometimes reach to grab the double image instead of the original image.

Color inside the wrong lines

When I was in kindergarten, no one really understood why I had trouble staying inside the lines when coloring, because not much was known about my functional vision level. The reality was that I thought I was coloring inside the lines, because my double vision caused me to see an additional image of the lines for the picture that was shifted to the side. Had they been available to me, I would have benefitted from having access to high-contrast coloring sheets with large, bold lines.

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Have trouble hitting/catching balls

If you ever want to see me move my hands in all directions or see something fall on the floor, just toss an object and yell “Veronica, catch!”

There are many aspects of my low vision that make catching and hitting objects difficult, but my double vision makes it harder for me to catch things that are thrown at me. This is because I do not often have enough time to figure out which direction the object is being thrown at me, and I don’t have enough time to process which image I should try to catch. Since ball-based sports are a major component of physical education/gym classes at the middle and high school level, I had modifications for my gym classes and took adaptive PE in high school.

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Prefer screens to be close to my face

Whenever I am working with a computer, phone, or tablet, I prefer to have the screen be fairly close to my face, but not so close that the backlight affects my photosensitivity. By having screens close to my face, I can minimize the impact of my double vision if a large percentage of the screen is directly in front of my face. This is also why I prefer to sit towards the front at movies, plays, and other performing arts events, so that I can focus my eyes as much as possible.

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Double check numbers and symbols

Once upon a time, I was taking a math test in eighth grade and was having a very bad day for eye fatigue, meaning that my double vision was less controlled than usual. I was taking a math quiz and thought that the question was asking for the number 1010 to be used for the problem. I found myself wondering why the teacher had chosen such a large number, and later found out that they hadn’t- the question involved the number 10, not 1010.

I learned my lesson after that to double check with the teacher if a number seems weird or to ask them to rewrite a question on my paper. One of my friends who also has double vision told me that they requested that teachers would write out a math problem with cardinal numbers as well as regular numbers. So the problem 2+2 would have the text “two plus two” underneath.

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Final thoughts

I know that I wrote a lot about things that I have trouble doing, but seeing double has not stopped me from being successful in pursuing education, being accepted by my peers, making friends, or doing many other tasks. If anything, seeing two of everything highlights the importance for accommodations and modifications to help others to not only be successful, but to have access to a safe and accessible environment where they can focus on the task at hand, not their vision impairment. I hope that this post helps to encourage awareness of double vision and how its impact on activities can be minimized.

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

Updated February 2024; original post published August 2019.

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