Image simulating decreased peripheral vision, about the size of a small coin. Clear image of the circle around the Parrot's head; parrot's body and background of photo are blacked out.
Activity

Using PicsArt to simulate low vision

Simulate the student's visual impairment to explain the student's usable vision and how it impacts his/her access to classroom materials.

One of the most frequently asked questions I received from teachers and special education staff in my high school was “what can you see?” I was the only student identified with low vision in my school, and also had a somewhat uncommon low vision diagnosis, so people couldn’t look at my diagnosis and get an idea of what my usable vision looks like. After struggling to find the words to describe what I can see, I edited a photo of The Beatles on my iPad using PicsArt to simulate how my double vision affects how I see information far away, and showed it to my Teacher of the Visually Impaired. This ended up being really helpful, and I started editing more photos I had saved that related to The Beatles to explain my vision loss, including lyrics sheets, posters, and similar items, which also helped me to learn how to explain my usable vision. Here are my tips for how to use PicsArt to simulate low vision and visual impairment, and how to edit photos to demonstrate usable vision.

Why use Picsart?

I’ve been using PicsArt for over ten years now, as it is a free photo editing software with multiple features and editing capabilities for manipulating images. I prefer to use it on my iPad over computer-based photo editing applications, because I can align the screen under the bifocal lens in my glasses and more effectively use magnification tools to enlarge the different buttons on the screen. PicsArt does not require an account to use, but the free version of the app does have some ads, which can be turned off by turning off the device’s wifi connection.

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Guidelines for creating low vision simulation images

I created low vision simulation images on my own in PicsArt, as I was familiar with the application and have a strong interest in graphic design, but recognize that this may not be the case for everyone. Even if the person with vision loss is not the one creating the image themselves, they should be involved in the design process to ensure that the images accurately reflect what they can see- this can be done as an activity with a parent or vision professional such as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI/TSVI).

When choosing an image to edit, I recommend taking a photo of familiar surroundings so that people are able to understand how someone sees in a particular environment – this is much more effective than editing random photos of The Beatles, which is what I originally did. Images should be as high resolution as possible before beginning edits, but do not necessarily have to be perfectly composed.

Some image ideas include:

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Sharing simulation images

I originally created the edited images of The Beatles to show to my TVI and classroom teachers, and they were also shared in an IEP meeting and with a few friends. Some examples of people who can benefit from visual impairment simulations include:

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Simulating blurry vision in PicsArt

Blurry vision is one of the easiest conditions to simulate in PicsArt, and is often a major component of other low vision conditions. This is especially helpful when explaining or requesting preferential seating. Users can stack filters on top of each other, so it is possible to simulate both double and blurry vision in one image.

  1. Open PicsArt
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom of the screen to open a new or recent project
  3. Select the desired image from Camera Roll to open the Editor
  4. Open the Effects menu, which has a FX icon
  5. Select Blur
  6. Choose a blur effect- I just used the standard blur effect
  7. Select on the desired filter icon to adjust intensity
  8. Select Apply
  9. Export image by selecting the Download icon at the top of the screen, which will automatically save the image to the camera roll
Blurry whiteboard

Photo used – A whiteboard with some programming notes on it. Photo taken from a desk with camera 5 feet from subject.

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Double vision

I have double vision as the result of a condition called accommodative esotropia. A lot of my teachers have had trouble understanding how double vision affects my ability to read or identify objects, so this has been one of the most helpful images to simulate.

  1. Open PicsArt
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom of the screen to open a new or recent project
  3. Select the desired image from Camera Roll to open the Editor
  4. Open the Effects menu, which has a FX icon
  5. Select Artistic
  6. Select Mirror, and then tap on the icon again to open advanced settings
  7. Choose whether the image should be shown horizontal or vertical
  8. Choose mode 1 or mode 2- mode 1 shows distinct images, mode 2 blends them together
  9. Adjust offset of the image with the slider
  10. Select Apply to save changes
  11. Export image by selecting the Download icon at the top of the screen, which will automatically save the image to the camera roll
    A double image of white phones

Photo used – a cell phone that was shattered after falling on a bass clarinet. Photo taken on classroom desk with camera 18 inches above subject

Double vision/shadow effect

Some people don’t see double images side by side, but rather see images blend together, almost like a shadow effect, which is something I experience due to decompensated strabismus. Creating this type of simulation is a little different and works best with a photo that has one subject/focal point.

  1. Open PicsArt
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom of the screen to open a new or recent project
  3. Select the desired image from Camera Roll to open the Editor
  4. Select Add Photo, which has an icon with a plus sign and a picture of a landscape
  5. Add the same photo from the camera roll
  6. Use the Free Crop/lasso tool to shade in the main area of the photo
  7. Overlay the new image on top of the existing image
  8. Use the Eraser tool located at the top of the screen to blend the two images together
  9. Select Apply to save changes
  10. Export image by selecting the Download icon at the top of the screen, which will automatically save the image to the camera roll
A double image of a phone with one behind the other

Photo used – a cell phone that was shattered after falling on a bass clarinet. Photo taken on classroom desk with camera 18 inches above subject

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Decreased peripheral vision

Many eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma involved decreased peripheral vision, with the field of vision sometimes being as small as a coin. Sometimes the surrounding area may be completely black, other times it may be very blurry. For this reason, I am using a more colorful image than previous photos.

For colored blurred background

  1. Open PicsArt
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom of the screen to open a new or recent project
  3. Select the desired image from Camera Roll to open the Editor
  4. Open Tools, which has a crop icon
  5. Select Tilt Shift, which is a circle icon between two lines
  6. Select Radial
  7. Adjust focus area as needed
  8. Select Apply
  9. If needed, go back into tools and select Adjust
  10. Select Brightness and adjust lighting as needed
  11. Select Apply
  12. Export image by selecting the Download icon at the top of the screen, which will automatically save the image to the camera rollA colorful parrot on Veronica’s arm

For black background

  1. Open PicsArt
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom of the screen to open a new or recent project
  3. Select the desired image from Camera Roll to open the Editor
  4. Open Tools, which has a crop icon
  5. Select Tilt Shift, which is a circle icon between two lines
  6. Select Radial
  7. Adjust focus area as needed
  8. Select Apply
  9. Open Effects, which has a FX icon
  10. Open Artistic
  11. Apply Neon filter
  12. Use eraser at the top of the screen to clear unblurred area
  13. Select Apply
  14. Export image by selecting the Download icon at the top of the screen, which will automatically save the image to the camera roll
A colorful parrot head on a sea of black in the background

Photo used – Me holding a parrot on my arm. Photo taken by person standing approximately 3 feet away from subject.

Photosensitivity/photophobia

I experience photophobia, which is a sensitivity to bright light, and being in a bright environment can make it difficult for me to identify objects or read text. This also affects many people with albinism and other eye conditions that affect pigment.

  1. Open PicsArt
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom of the screen to open a new or recent project
  3. Select the desired image from Camera Roll to open the Editor
  4. Open the Effects menu, which has a FX icon
  5. Select Colors
  6. Select Colorize
  7. Adjust color hue and fade/intensity as needed
  8. To make the brightness more intense, select Screen from the filter menu
  9. Select Apply
  10. Export image by selecting the Download icon at the top of the screen, which will automatically save the image to the camera roll
A washed out image of text

Photo used – A piece of paper with text. Photo taken on classroom desk with camera 12 inches above subject

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More ideas for how to use PicsArt to simulate low vision

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com

Updated October 2023; original post published August 2018.

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