As already suggested by another commenter, continuing with web development, but with a focus on UX and accessability strikes me as the "shortest shift". It will potentially also give you a constructive outlet for the stress of loosing your vision (helping make sure others in a similar situation have a better experience with the product/sites you work on).
I imagine working as a specialized a11y consultant is likely to be a safer and better compensated niche than as a "regular" designer/developer.
Your personal experience and necessary adjustments would probably also allow you to work in similar fields, like working on native apps that need to be accessible to people with poor vision (ie: all of them, but especially those related to work functions, like logistics, cashier/bank, archiving/document management and probably lots I'm forgetting - where there might be regulations that must be passed in order to be able to deliver on bids).
You don't need to change your career. I know a blind webdev, and he's just as competent as every other dev I've ever worked with and respected. He's even faster than I am zipping through codebases, the screenreader almost feels like he is cheating (joke).
I know it's not really relevant to your disease, but you can't let your disability define you. Everyone has challenges they need to overcome.
It will take some time to relearn habits, but it's possible.
Oh, I would argue that it is a marketable asset. Depends on your prospective employer.
In e.g. Austria regional or communal government, or agencies working with them, would gladly pick you up, give you a protected workplace and enlist you to help make all the e-government sites and processes more accessible.
I'm not simply claiming this. I used to work with a 100% blind developer, that had a degree from Uni Innsbruck in either Computer Science or Mathematics, I don't remember really. I could not understand how he managed to get a degree (in the 80ies or 90ies nonetheless), but even if he needed special tools, he was a very important asset in the whole e-government push, especially because he was apparently a very valuable software developer, albeit his challenges.
Lots of higher ed institutions won't even consider purchasing a new piece of new software unless it passes WCAG. It's a part of the bidding process now. Lot of Universities have been sued because the software they use is not accesible. This is a huge deal in higher ed. Also, software vendors lack accessibility talent. If you can find your way into this niche, it could be lucrative for you. I would suggest you do a ton of research on the various types of accessibility issues, participate in web-dev accessibility communities, and start posting content on how to develop attractive and accessible sites once you feel very knowledgeable. Maybe even make some simple tools for your site/whereever you start posting content. There is definitely a lack of developer tools and quality content around accessibility.
I don‘t have a good alternative for you, because my eyesight is roughly what you described and I do exactly that job, without much struggle. I have had this level of eyesight, or significantly worse, for all my life so It‘s maybe a different story.
I find full screen magnification (following mouse and keyboard focus) extremely effective once you have gotten comfortable with it. I feel like I‘m barely disadvantaged as long as things are happening on screen. I can comfortably design pages and apps in sketch or figma and have not gotten much negative feedback on that. It‘s still possible these things wheren‘t up to standard, but good enough to ship at an agency and have happy clients. Now I am solo designing and developing my startup‘s app and we get positive anonymous feedback on the design. This sounds like I‘m bragging and I would edit it down but I‘m trying to show you that it is still very workable, if you want to keep doing it. I am no design savant: just put a little more thought into it, follow some rules on typography, spacing and color and zoom into the details to get them right. Also shamelessly follow some trends that seem nice to you. Since you‘ve been doing it for a while, you already know what to do.
This is if you want to keep doing it. If you know your eyesight will keep getting worse, or you just feel uncomfortable working with screens this much, it‘s wise to look for the next thing. The DevOps suggestions in the thread seem good, as do the accessibility consulting ones. You could transition to text to speech and maybe braille displays in those positions.
If you have questions, general or specific, about how to make it work, I‘m happy to talk. My twitter username is the same as here and you can DM me.
Edit: I think I misread your vision numbers because i am not used to that format but a 0-100% one. My visus is hovering around 20%. I think 20/40 would be 50%?
Yeah, that makes sense. If you don‘t feel you will be able to comfortably and effectively do the work, no point in forcing it.
I really recommend you give mouse driven full screen zoom a good try. Whatever job you do, it will be a QoL improvement in computing. The key, imho, is to not move focus with your eyes much but instead move focus under your eyes with the mouse. Don‘t shy away from larger magnifications than you need to read text, but instead make it really comfortable for whatever field of vision you have. I also move the zoom level in and out almost as much as the focus, while reading/writing/interacting. This part may only work well with the smooth gesture zoom of macOS where you can do both at the same time and a laptop where you can access the trackpad with your thumbs from home row.
I‘m sorry for going into unsolicited rant mode on this. I just see other visually impaired people struggle with their super large font settings and think they could work better. It may just be my specific kind of bad vision, idk.
Thanks for the advice. I use 120% scaling on my windows machine but I find MacOS lacks fine tuned display scaling outside of the zoom option and 3-4 resolutions.
TBH I'm also a bit self conscious about using a massive zoom at work. I've already had some comments in the past which is why I just try to get through the day with the uncomfortable lenses. Some days are bad with headaches.
The main issue I find with glass/scaling/zoom vs lenses is that I am much much slower which just makes me feel depressed. My job in UI dev is quite demanding with long hours and overtime which is why I'm trying to move into something less visually demanding overall.
I have a condition called juvenile retinoschisis. It's very similar to macular degeneration. My overall vision varies between 20/80ish and 20/120ish depending on the day. After having around ten different surgeries to correct a few retinal detachments I'm left with double vision, ghosting, distortions in my visual field, floaters, near constant pain, and extreme light sensitivity. My last job was front end developer in a React codebase, and I'm currently working as a full stack dev in Elixir/Phoenix. It can be done. You will find new ways to adapt.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope you're able to improve your vision somewhat with lenses or glasses?
You're right that it can be done, but it's mentally challenging, especially when you become aware how much slower you are vs with 20/20 - I mean its frustrating. Something we have to adapt to as you said.
DevOps as suggested before would be a decent fit but that will require quite a bit of training as you go. I don't know if you have the appetite for that or not.
I have a coworker in a similar situation who pivoted to being really the accessibility expert, which has helped us quite a bit reach a broader market with our tools. There is a lot to making an app or site more accessible for people with vision issues and its a common requirement for government projects.
Hi, I'm an ophthalmologist, corneal specialist (and regular HN reader). I just would like to draw your attention to the absolute necessity to avoid any eye rubbing. This point is very often ignored by some colleagues, for various reasons. CXL will never increase your visual acuity, it is aimed at stabilizing the evolution (it is a controversial procedure).
The most effective thing to stabilize your pathology is to avoid any eye rubbing.
Please inform yourself about scleral lenses, too. Write me if you need to.
Thanks for your response. I had my CXL procedure 3 years ago and afaik I have avoided eye-rubbing completely since then. I also wear scleral lenses but I can only get 8 hours at best on a good day due to eye dryness. Even with lubricating eye drops.
8 hours but I would have to remove them once or twice a day, which is a whole other rigamarole.
Shit, I have keratoconus with rigid lenses and been constantly rubbing my eyes for more than 10 years now. Been to two ophthalmologist and a couple opticians and no one ever mentioned that. Thanks for the warning!
I'll ask my ophthalmologist about scleral lenses or maybe hybrid or K-rose lenses as some other comments mentioned.
This is infuriating. This is why I always comment when I see people talking about KC on HN (guess what? There is a lot. I won't do the research but I'm almost sure that this is the most frequent pathologie people here talk about. Lots of computers, lots of concentration, lots of eye dryness,lots of eye rubbing).
There is more and more evidence to support the fact that KC is purely induced by eye rubbing.
For a complete argumentation and discussion about the case for the role of eye rubbing in keratoconus genesis, please look at this website : https://defeatkeratoconus.com/
(Disclaimer: I work closely with one of the main proponent of the eye rubbing hypothesis. However, please believe that I don't have any conflict of interest in this topic. I don't have anything to gain in raising awareness about this problem, except feeling that I'm doing something right)
I have keratoconus too and I wear hard lenses as the OP. While they are indeed inconvenient (we could write an article only about that, right), I make the daily effort to support them - unless it's an allergy day then lol no way. I never heard of CXL until now, so I'll have to look into it, thank you for the hint! Maybe the docs never mentioned it to me also because my numbers are stable for the last fifteen years...
Keratoconus here too. CXL is more to stop any progression and best when performed early. For the longest time I unexpectedly got by with soft toric lenses. I'm currently doing well with "hybrid" lenses from Synergeyes. They're hard in the middle with a soft skirt. So, a bit more comfortable than other options. My biggest annoyance is the removal procedure. But, some days I have better than 20/20.
Hey I have Keratoconus too..
I am using the K-Rose lenses RIgid Gas Peremable ones, they are quite comfortable after a week of use. The K-Rose lenses are engineered to exact curvature of the problematic cornea, so the fit is perfect and no accumulation of tears inderneath
Overall, though bit expensive I would say they helped.
I’ve lived with Kerotoconus for the last 20 years, and professional developer for 25+ years. I’ve worn hard contact lenses for most of that time (various types), and had a corneal graft (transplant) in one eye about 4 years ago. I’m primarily a back end developer, and was contemplating a career change before surgery. Some thoughts based on my experience:
* Hard contact lens wear takes some getting used to. Stay with it if you possibly can.
* The difference between good and bad contacts is night and day. Subtle differences can make a world of difference in comfort.
* Find an optometrist who has expertise in kerotoconus/fitting hard lenses, and who will try as many revisions as it takes to get it right. I can go 16 hours straight every day with my lenses, no worries.
* Hydration can affect lens comfort. Drink plenty of fluid, especially in hot weather.
* Ambient light levels also have a big effect, your room can be over lit without being obviously too bright. Too much light will leave your eyes feeling dry.
* To reduce light/glare I would dare mode all the things. Including using Chrome extensions to invert colours in Google Docs. On bad days, for me, a white screen was like staring into the sun. Sounds like this is less of an issue for you though.
* Good quality monitors are essential. I like IPS displays, they seem to make great colours and contrast without putting out a lot of light. Spend time setting them up to your liking. I like the brightness as low as I can get it without loosing too much contrast. Your employer should be buying these for you, but I would spend my own money if I had to. It’s that important to me.
* A graft/transplant is pretty much the last option. The recovery takes a couple of months, but for me the difference in vision is dramatic. For professionals dependent on vision like ourselves the fact that the surgeon can’t give any indication of your vision afterwards is a bit scary.
* If you’re in South Australia, I’m happy to give you the names of my optom and surgeon. Both are amazing.
* After surgery I’ve deferred thoughts of a career change, my vision is good enough that I feel I can continue “hands on” development for a number of years yet.
* “Hands on” above might give you a hint as to what I was thinking of in terms of alternate options. Look for things where your skills and experience can be utilised, but without full time screen work. Project Management, Team Leadership, etc might be worth considering. Teaching or Mentoring are other options to explore.
* It never occurred to me, but accessibility consulting would be an excellent idea.
* The degeneration in your vision slows down eventually. I was diagnosed in my early 20s and went downhill rapidly in my late 20s. My eyesight changed a somewhat through my 30s and has been pretty stable since I turned 40. From what I understand, this is pretty typical, but is scary AF when your young and “going blind” though.
I was really struggling with vision prior to surgery. I was fortunate to be able to discuss my difficulties with my employer. He said something at the time that stuck with me. He said that he’d always valued the thought (design/architecture) that went into everything I built. And that the way that had been captured in the past was with fingers on keyboard doing the building. We just needed to find a different way to do that going forwards. Which might have meant working with the juniors on our team to build their skills instead. Think about what your strengths and experience are and other ways to harness those skills.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, I appreciate it. I think I'm the opposite in that I can't use any kind of dark modes, only light modes - my white on black contrast is really bad.
For the screen, I prefer a matte 1080p display to reduce glare and reflections. I prefer this to 4k screens.
I have been wearing lenses for 3 years but as I'm sure you might know it can be hard at times. Sometimes your eyes are not up to it or just having off-days is quite common for me. Then there's the issue of how to take out and put in the lenses at work without being stared at.
Dark modes for me help fight the "staring into the sun" effect I get from predominantly white screens, but obviously it's not a fix for everyone.
Matte displays, definitely want to cut down on glare. If you can avoid white desk surfaces, do, it's surprising how much difference that makes. Room lighting generally makes a big difference.
I use font settings in Linux (primarily a Linux user) to scale font sizes system wide. At my worst I was up to 150% scaling and still struggling. I found 1080p on a 23in display was ok for reading, but I found myself wanting more on the screen. I've found 2550x1440 on a 27in display to be the sweet spot. 4k at any size would be a disaster, a denser crisper display isn't helpful if your vision isn't sharp enough to give you the details.
Managing lenses at work is a genuine pain. I used to (working from home since COVID makes this unnecessary) carry a small toiletries bag in my work bag with the solutions, storage cases, etc I needed for my lenses. I also had a small mirror in the bag as well, and could do whatever I needed to do at my desk. I never had problems with people staring, I was pretty open about my visual difficulties (e.g. if looking over a colleagues shoulder to diagnose a problem I'd often be asking them to read me the error message), which I think helps people understand.
Occasionally my eyes just aren't up to lens wear, I'll usually try to get through the work day and pop them out as soon as I get home to give my eyes a rest, and try to get through to a weekend. Then go without lenses entirely over the weekend to recover.
Colds and flus are the worst as the constant nose blowing will force stuff into your eyes. I'm fortunate in that I've never suffered from allergies, but I'd imagine that's the same. But generally if my eyes are regularly not tolerating a lens it's usually a sign that the lens is problematic, and time to see the optom again.
It took me quite a number of years to get properly comfortable wearing the lenses though, and small variables stuff things up. Even the specific cleaners, storage fluid and wetting fluids you use makes a difference. I found some would irritate my eye ever so slightly (which was enough to make lens wear really uncomfortable), but switching to a different product made a world of difference.
I have the same issue with staring into the sun. I basically have my machines set permanently to low blue light/night shift mode and it makes a big difference for me.
>4k at any size would be a disaster, a denser crisper display isn't helpful if your vision isn't sharp enough to give you the details.
- exactly my experience.
I've only tried Ubuntu but I found the font scaling, at least via the settings menu to be limited somewhat compared to Windows. I've found Windows the most comfortable to use vs my MacOS work machine. I'm sure Linux has ways to configure scaling under the hood but I didn't look into it.
I've also found that if I had a cold lately my eyes tend to tolerate the lenses much less. It's strange how the cold even manifests itself in my eyes and vision.
> I've been working as a web dev for 15 years since graduation but I know my days I numbered in this field as it requires near perfect vision due to the UI nature and dealing with things on a pixel level.
I wish I could do that. I actually had to leave my last job because I was having too many issues. Lots of UI issues being missed. This was before I was diagnosed so I wasn't aware that it was caused by my vision.
In my current role as a contractor for faang company the work I do is very visually intensive marketing web design. There are so many subtle shades of gray and 1px borders that I often get QA tickets where I am literally unable to reproduce without visual correction.
You're right though. It would be easier for me to move into some kind of back-end focused nodeJS role which I'm quite strong at. But I have a fear of working on back-end systems that are directly connected to revenue streams. Like I don't think I have the engineering nous to do that.
Also I agree that pixel perfection is an outdated concept driven by the PSD to HTML era. These days layout should be determined by content (text, images) and not some arbitrary PSD comp. There has to be room for flexibility.
I'm a web developer with an incurable neuro-visual disorder, which I soon discovered prevented me from doing UI stuff competently so I got into backend early on. No need to leave web development altogether if you don't want to, there's room to change your focus away from the UI side of things.
Most of my current role is writing server-side software for web applications as well as dealing with some of the operational and database side of things too (small company; many hats!). I can't imagine the motivations for getting into UI stuff are exactly the same as getting into server-side stuff but personally I really like what I do.
I have thought a few times of maybe something to remedy this, like a vibrating mouse, which vibrates more intensely as you move over pixels, based on its luminosity or something. High constract edge = vibration.
Note I am not blind at all, actually don't even wear glasses after programming for 10+ years. I just think there are quality of life improvements that can come with using TTS!
> I can get 20/20 with rigid lenses but it's not very comfortable
I'm guessing it's keratoconus? The lenses are uncomfortable but I got my doctor to tweak them so there's more space/less strain on the eye. Can go the full day in lenses most days, eyes are still red tho :/
> it requires near perfect vision due to the UI nature and dealing with things on a pixel level
I do mostly back-end stuff, it might be something worth looking into. Can confirm, being color blind on top of KC makes me a pretty bad at front-end dev ^^; (still doable, but slower, as I have to use higher DPI/zoom more or ask someone else to look over my work every now and then).
It sounds like you're able to use bright screens, and for (potentially) lengthy periods of time still. Depending on your linguistic abilities you could look into tech writing, or copy writing. Your technical background could be quite useful here, in addition to the attention to detail that comes as a part of front-end development.
If it's indeed keratoconus as other commented suggested, it can be fixed with a transplant or - news for me as well - with corneal cross-linking. Your decision of course, I preferred for myself to keep wearing the rigid lenses so I really know the fun of it...
cross linking stops the progression but does not fix your vision. went through cornea transplant 20 years ago and it has been great since with a rather quick recovery. had a few episodes of rejection at the beginning but since I use Restasis, it never occurred again (coincidence or correlation? don't really want to know at this point). life expectancy of graft is about 30 years though I've been told... :( good luck
Have you tried a scleral lens? They are larger than RGP lens and sit on the white of the eye rather than touching the cornea. I have one that was custom made for my eye and I regularly wear it for 12+ hours without discomfort.
I'm not very strong socially and I tend to get bored quite easily so I think PM work would not work for me. I did consider it in the past but I don't think I have the temperament for it. And also taking calls from stakeholders is a nightmare for me....:D
Are you able to wear glasses to improve 20/100? That's my issue is that I'm stuck at 20/40 because glasses don't work for my condition.
Also I should mention that 20/40 with my condition is a bit different because my vision is affected with distortion, halos, ghosting - think astigmatism but in every kind of random direction all at once. Basically, I can read the lines but its not really functional vision.