According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 253 million people in the world who are visually impaired.
Of this number, 36 million are blind, and 2.2 million are children under the age of 15. The vast majority of people with visual impairment live in developing countries.
The leading causes of visual impairment are cataracts, glaucoma, and refractive errors. The causes of visual impairment are varied and can include:
- Congenital conditions: These are conditions that are present at birth and can cause visual impairment. Examples include cataracts, glaucoma, and retinoblastoma.
- Acquired conditions: These are conditions that develop after birth and can cause visual impairment. Examples include diabetes, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
- Trauma: This can include injuries to the eyes, such as those sustained in a car accident or sports injury.
There is no cure for many forms of visual impairment, but there are ways to manage the condition and improve the quality of life for visually impaired people.
How to Help the Visually Impaired
Here are some tips on how to help a visually impaired person navigate their day-to-day activities:
- Be patient and understanding: It may take a visually impaired person longer to complete tasks than a sighted person. Be patient and understanding, and offer your help if needed.
- Speak clearly and directly: Visually impaired people often rely on their hearing to get information. Speak clearly and directly, and avoid using jargon or slang.
- Describe your surroundings: If you are walking with a visually impaired person, describe your surroundings to them. This will help them to navigate safely and confidently.
- Offer to help with tasks: If you see a visually impaired person struggling with a task, offer to help. This could be anything from opening a door to reading a menu.
- Be aware of your surroundings: When you are in public, be aware of your surroundings and be mindful of any potential hazards. This could include things like uneven surfaces, obstacles, or traffic.
Types of Technologies to Use
Several assistive technologies can help visually impaired people navigate their day-to-day activities. These technologies can include:
- White canes: White canes are a simple but effective way for visually impaired people to detect obstacles and navigate their surroundings.
- Guide dogs: Guide dogs are trained to help visually impaired people get around safely and independently.
- Talking GPS devices: Talking GPS devices can help visually impaired people find their way to new destinations.
- Screen readers: Screen readers are software programs that read text aloud, allowing visually impaired people to use computers and other electronic devices.
How to Manage Visual Impairment
There are several things that people with visual impairment can do to manage their condition and live full and independent lives. These include:
- Getting regular eye examinations: It is important to see an eye doctor regularly to monitor your vision and detect any potential problems early on.
- Learning about your condition: The more you know about your condition, the better equipped you will be to manage it. There are several resources available to help you learn more about visual impairment.
- Using assistive technology: Several assistive technologies can help people with visual impairment get around, read, and perform other tasks.
- Getting support from others: Several organisations provide support and resources to people with visual impairment. These organisations can offer emotional support, practical advice, and information about local resources.
How to Help the Visually Impaired at Home and in Public
Here are some specific things you can do to help a visually impaired person in different situations:
At home: If you are having a visually impaired person over for dinner, make sure your home is well-lit and that there are no obstacles in the way. You may also want to consider providing them with a talking white cane or guide dog as stated earlier.
In public: If you see a visually impaired person who is struggling to cross the street, offer to help them. If you are in a restaurant, ask the waiter or waitress to describe the menu to the visually impaired person. If you are on a bus or train, offer to help the visually impaired person find a seat.
Additional Things to Do
Here are some additional things you can do to help visually impaired people:
- Get involved in your community: Many organisations work with visually impaired people. Get involved in one of these organisations and help to raise awareness about visual impairment.
- Donate to organisations that help visually impaired people: Many organisations provide services to visually impaired people. Donate to one of these organisations to help them continue their work.
- Educate yourself about visual impairment: The more you know about visual impairment, the better you will be able to help visually impaired people. There are many resources available to help you learn more about visual impairment.
By following these tips, you can help to make the world a more accessible place for visually impaired people.