Alisha Regmi, Bachelor of Optometry.

M. Optom Student, The Sankara Nethralaya Academy, A unit of Medical Research Foundation in collaboration with The Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R Medical University, Chennai


Introduction to Visual Ergonomics

When we hear the term Visual ergonomics, we may wonder that it may be something related to eyes and ergonomic adjustments to the workplace. Well, it is partially correct.

Visual ergonomics is a multidisciplinary science that is concerned with different human aspects and environmental aspects consisting of main domains in physical, social, organizational, informational ergonomics. (1)

Visual ergonomics deals with the interaction of visual processes with humans and other elements of the system. This theory is applied to design, assess systems, and optimize the wellbeing of humans and the overall performance of the system.(1)

Visual ergonomics covers these areas:  (1, 2)

  • In the visual environment as a lighting condition, lighting design
  • Visual display workstation design
  • Determination of visual demanding work and other tasks
  • Ensuring visual comfort and safety
  • Visual corrections to ensure clarity of vision at work.
  • Visual fatigue management
  • Assistive tools where required, assistive technology specially for visually impaired people.
  • Designing environment in public places to ensure safety in places as stairs and signage.
  • Designing of Human-Machine Interfaces(HMI) in vehicles and equipment

Basic Concept of Visual Ergonomics:

To understand visual ergonomics in-depth, it is indeed much necessary to know about the concept of visual demand and visual ability. (2)

Visual Demand is the vision requirement of each task that varies from one occupation to another. Visual Ability is the individual’s personal ability to accomplish a visually demanding task.  (3)

Various professionals unify to apply visual ergonomics theory and apply the method to balance between the visual demand and worker’s visual ability (Refer figure 1) (1, 2)

Various aspects of the visual environment as effective lighting quality and quantity,  glare/reflection free workplace, adequate viewing angle of monitors, proper working distance, contrast; target size; viewing time; angular size; task illuminance should be considered. Required modifications and improvements done in these aspects help in improving visual ability, reducing errors by enhancing visual performance and better task visibility. (4) Hence, the visual performance, safety, comfort of the worker as well as work productivity is enhanced. (5, 6, 7)


Figure 1: Enumerates types of professionals from various fields who unify for Visual Ergonomics (1, 2)

Table 1: Impact of poor visual ergonomics can be as follows (5)

Digital Eye Strain / Computer Vision Syndrome Visual fatigue Increased number of errors at work
Poor visual performance Poor task visibility Impact on work productivity
Adaptation to altered/awkward body postures Visually demanding tasks also have an impact musculoskeletal system mainly on the upper extremities leading to pain/ache over the neck and shoulder area


Below is an example of a specialist and generalist working for Visual Ergonomics:

Jennifer Long et al (8) reported a case example where employees of an organization reported headache and eyestrain after new computer systems were installed. Visual Ergonomist analyzed old and new technology revealed the text on the new system was 1mm smaller than the old display. As a result, employees leaned forward due to increased visual demand and adapted to an awkward body posture while working and visual symptoms as headache and eye strain. To resolve the issue a software specialist worked on it to modify the computer’s interface and further employees’ feedback was taken during redevelopment.


Figure 2: Tips for maintaining visual hygiene (9, 10)



  1. Long, J., Toomingas, A., Forsman, M., Glimne, S., Helland, M., Hemphälä, H., & Osterhaus, W. (2014). A definition of visual ergonomics. Applied ergonomics45(126), 3e1264.
  2. (last date of access 02/11/2020)
  3. Dr PP Santanam, Dr R Krishna Kumar Monica R, Dr. Santanam’s Textbook of Occupational Optometry, First Edition. Published by Elite School of Optometry, Unit of Medical Research Foundation, Chennai. Chapter 1: Page no: 16-17. Chapter 4: Page no: 39.
  1. “Occupational Vision Manual – American Optometric Association” (last date of access 04/11/2020)
  2. Anshel, J. R. (2007). Visual ergonomics in the workplace. Aaohn Journal55(10), 414-420.
  3. Long and A. Long, “Applying research to practice : Generalist and specialist ( visual ergonomics ) consultancy,” vol. 41, pp. 3372–3378, 2012, doi: 10.3233/WOR-2012-0610-3372.
  4. Hemphälä and J. Eklund, “A visual ergonomics intervention in mail sorting facilities : Effects on eyes , muscles and productivity,” Appl. Ergon., vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 217–229, 2012, doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2011.05.006.
  5. Long, J., & Long, A. (2012). Applying research to practice: Generalist and specialist (visual ergonomics) consultancy. Work41(Supplement 1), 3372-3378.
  6. content/uploads/2019/10/2019-October-Visual-ergonomics-on-the-go.pdf (last date of access 04/11/2020)
  7. (last date of access 04/11/2020)