I recently found out that this month is Blindness Awareness Month. There are a lot of “months” or “weeks” happening and so it has been hard to catch up. However, I wanted to tell you all a little bit about Blindness Awareness Month. The goal of Blindness Awareness Month is to promote awareness of what is like to live without, or with very little, sight. One of more commonly known events that happen this month is White Cane Day. White Cane Day is on October 15, 2013 and is a national observance set aside since 1964 to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired, and the important symbol of blindness and tool of independence, the white cane. Basically, individuals with visual impairments can do just about EVERYTHING with the proper supports, such as reliable public transportation, orientation and mobility training, assistive technology, vocational rehabilitation, etc. We can be independent in our home and work lives and we can give back to the community while doing so.
With that, I thought that I would give a fact about visual impairments every day for the entire month of October. Since I’m jumping on this bandwagon late, I’ll catch up below. Also, I want to extend the invitation for you all to ask me anything you are curious about, by commenting on this blog or by sending me the question via the Contact Me button at the top of this page. You don’t even have to list your name if you’re too embarrassed or shy. I want to educate and spread awareness and so I would love to answer your questions. At the end of this month, I’ll compile all of the questions that I’ve been asked here, as well as some of the most common questions I get asked, and write a post answering them.
October 1/Fact #1: About 90% of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries. (World Health Organization)
October 2/Fact #2: Most people who have the label as “blind” because they are legally blind or visually impaired are not completely blind. Blindness covers many types of visual impairments from tunnel vision (like I have), lack of central vision but one can see in the peripheral, focussing disorders, only light perception, etc. In fact, only 1 in 10 individuals who are blind are without any sight at all.
October 3/Fact #3: Individuals with visual impairments do not automatically get a better sense of hearing because they are blind. They learn to concentrate and pay close attention to the auditory cues and what is going on around them and they find ways to use it to compensate for their lack of visual information. This may give off the impression that they can hear better than individuals with sight, but it is indeed not the case.
October 4/Fact #4: Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of visual impairment; cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle- and low-income countries.
October 5/Fact #5: Talking loud to a person with a visual impairment does not increase their ability to understand you. An individual without sight has eyeballs that do not work as a sighted person’s would, but unless they have an additional disability such as individuals with Usher’s Syndrome do, they do not require one to simply speak louder to compensate for the lack of visual information.
October 6/Fact #6: All individuals with visual impairments do not read Braille. Literacy is a problem with individuals who are visually impaired in today’s society for two reasons. Technology is allowing more and more individuals to not have to learn Braille because they can rely on screen readers, computers, apps, and smartphones to help them navigate their daily activities and responsibilities and that is a huge factor that contributes to the illiteracy in many individuals with visual impairments. Many of these methods do not promote good spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Also, children have visual impairments are not required to learn Braille in school because many can get by with large print but then as their vision progresses over the years they are not able to use that large print anymore and don’t want to use Braille. I do want to add as a Disclaimer that there are MANY MANY MANY individuals with visual impairments that are very literate, but there is an increasing trend in illiteracy in the blindness community. Many individuals who are blind and illiterate are still able to function though because of thet assistive technology that I mentioned above. (Info from Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind)
October 7/Fact #7: When talking to an individual with a visual impairment, it is still okay to use the words “see,” “watch,” “observe,” “look,” “view,” etc. Individuals with visual impairments “see” things their own way, etc. There is no need to be hesitant when using these. HOWEVER, I will add this disclaimer just from personal experience. A time it is NOT okay to ask an individual with a visual impairment if they SAW something is if you clearly know they do not have the ability to see, visually, what you are talking about but still expect/ask them if they saw it. I will give an example as a situation. I was in a class where a Professor knows I have very limited vision, we have discussed this on multiple occasions, and I can only see right in front of me with any clarity and if it is text it needs to be large print or on the computer. She wrote something on the board and when I ditactdn’t get that information, I emailed to inquire about something related and the Professor wrote back, “Didn’t you see what was on the board?” This is an example when “see” is not appropriate but really that has more to do with a lack of awareness about blindness than the vocabulary chosen.
October 8/Fact #8: Some think that it is appropriate to describe directions to an individual with a visual impairment in terms of how many steps they have to take from Point A to Point B. While there may be an individual out there who uses this method, most individuals with visual impairments use tactile cues such as “when you get to the intersection of such and such,” because individuals can feel the curbs, etc and they learn to know the layout of the neighborhood, campus, etc.
Did you learn anything new? If so, what? What do you think about what I stated? What has been the most surprising thing that you have learned about individuals with visual impairments, whether it’s been on this blog, through me, or through another source?