Using PicsArt to Simulate Vision Impairment

As the only student identified with low vision in my school district, I was asked time and time again what I could see, and what I couldn’t see. This wasn’t always very easy to explain, but I remember one day my teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) asked me to create a simulation of what my vision looked like using a photo editing app of my choice. I ended up editing a picture of The Beatles to show my blurry and double vision in a matter of minutes. While my TVI never showed the image to anyone else (as far as I know), I have since been creating vision impairment simulations as needed to explain what makes certain materials inaccessible and to answer questions about my eyesight from curious friends. Today I will be sharing tutorials using PicsArt on how to simulate low vision and common vision impairments.

About PicsArt

PicsArt is a free editing app on Android and iOS that allows users to filter and edit photos quickly and easily. I have been using PicsArt since early high school and have memorized where many of the different functions are, so I have been able to continue to use the app as my vision has changed over the years. Users can choose to use other apps instead of PicsArt, though results may vary.  It’s worth noting that PicsArt has ads, but the ads disappear when the app is used in offline mode, which can be activated by turning off wifi or cell data. Download PicsArt for iOS on the App Store here and for Android on Google Play here.

Who should create these images?

I created my own vision impairment simulation images to show to my teachers, but not every student has the interest or the ability to take up graphic design. I have written this post so that anyone can follow these instructions, whether it be a parent, TVI, case manager, or student.

Images to use

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. Images should be as high resolution as possible before beginning edits- read more about high resolution images here. Some image ideas include:

For this post, I will be using photos that I have taken myself over the years from inside my high school or college. These are not perfect images, nor do they have to be- the emphasis is on images that are easily recognizable.

Who should see these images?

I have created vision impairment simulation images for a variety of situations and for different people. Here are some examples of their uses:

Showing blurry vision

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- read more about choosing a seat here.

  1. Open app
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom, followed by edit
  3. Select the desired image from camera roll
  4. Open the effects menu
  5. Go to blur
  6. Choose a blur effect- I just used the standard blur effect
  7. Click on the desired effect to adjust intensity
  8. Click done
  9. Export image by clicking the right arrow and saving to camera roll

Blurry picture of the whiteboard

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

Double vision

I have double vision as the result of a condition called accommodative esotropia. It’s kind of hard to explain double vision, but it’s easy to simulate in photos. Read more about how I explain double vision here.

  1. Open app
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom, followed by edit
  3. Select the desired image from camera roll
  4. Open the effects menu
  5. Go to distort
  6. Click the mirror filter
  7. Click on the filter again to explore advanced settings
  8. Choose horizontal or vertical
  9. Choose mode 1 or mode 2- mode 1 shows distinct images, mode 2 blends them together
  10. Adjust offset as needed
  11. Click done
  12. Export image by clicking the right arrow and saving to camera roll

A double image of a white phone with a cracked screen; phones are mirrored image side-by-side.

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. Read more about my decompensated strabismus diagnosis here.

  1. Open app
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom, followed by edit
  3. Select the desired image from camera roll
  4. Once on the main screen, click “add photo”
  5. Add the same photo from before
  6. Use the free crop 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 to blend the two images together
  9. Click done
  10. Export image by clicking the right arrow and saving to camera roll

A double image of a phone with one phone 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

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 app
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom, followed by edit
  3. Select the desired image from camera roll
  4. Open tools
  5. Select tilt-shift
  6. Select radial image
  7. Adjust focus area as needed
  8. Click done
  9. If needed, go back into tools and click adjust
  10. Click brightness and adjust as needed
  11. Click done
  12. Export image by clicking the right arrow and saving to camera roll

A colorful parrot on Veronica's arm; the parrot's head is clear but the rest of the image is blurry.

For black background

  1. Open app
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom, followed by edit
  3. Select the desired image from camera roll
  4. Select tilt-shift
  5. Select radial image
  6. Adjust focus area as needed
  7. Click done
  8. Open effects menu
  9. Go to artistic filters
  10. Apply neon filter
  11. Use eraser at the top of the screen to clear unblurred area
  12. Click done
  13. Export image by clicking the right arrow and saving to camera roll

A colorful parrot on Veronica's arm; the parrot's head is shown but the rest of the photo is blacked out.

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

Photosensitivity

I am very light sensitive and wear gray tinted glasses, though have also rocked purple and brown tints in the past. It hurts to expose my eyes to light and it can impact my vision tremendously. Many people with albinism experience the same issue, since it is the pigment in the eye that absorbs light. Read more about my tinted glasses here.

  1. Open app
  2. Click the plus sign at the bottom, followed by edit
  3. Select the desired image from camera roll
  4. Open the effects menu
  5. Go to the color filters
  6. For colors, select the colorize filter
  7. Adjust color hue and fade/intensity as needed
  8. To show brightness intensity, select the saturation filter
  9. Adjust the amount as needed
  10. In additional settings (right under the amount filter), click the screen option
  11. Click done
  12. Export image by clicking the right arrow and saving to camera roll

A washed image of handwritten math equations.

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

Print disabilities

A great way to showcase problems with standard classroom material is to take a photo of standard printed material and show how a person sees it with a specific condition. For me, small text appears to be so blurry that it almost looks nonexistent, but for others, letters might appear to be different shapes, run off the page, or flipped. Using the same methods as listed above, pictures can be modified to show individual circumstances. Read more about print disabilities here.

Final thoughts

These images are not done by a professional, and are not a replacement for medical advice or eye treatment. They should be used as a quick, easy, and free way to simulate low vision for people who are curious to learn more about it. I have had great success using PicsArt to simulate low vision and other vision impairments, and hope that others can benefit from these tutorials as well.

 

Add new comment

Read more about: Assistive Technology