There exist 4 levels to visual functionality, according to the International Classification of Diseases -10 (Update and Revision 2006):
- normal vision
- moderate visual impairment
- severe visual impairment
Blindness is defined as, the inability to see. Legally blindness is defined as less than 20/200 vision in the better eye with glasses (vision of 20/200 is the ability to see at 20 feet only what the normal eye can see at 200).
The leading causes of chronic blindness include: cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, corneal opacities, diabetic retinopathy, trachoma, and eye conditions in children Age-related blindness is increasing throughout the world, as is blindness due to uncontrolled diabetes. Alternately, blindness caused by infection is decreasing, as a result of public health action.
(World Health Organisation)
Some experts have likened initial reactions to vision loss to the “stages of grief,” defined by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger and depression, and finally acceptance. Navigating the various stages successfully begins with understanding how they affect you and those around you. With understanding comes the ability to straightforwardly address conflicts, allay fears, and move forward.
To help with this process, here are a few points to keep in mind:
- You are not alone.
- You can continue to lead a full, rewarding life.
Again, if you’re willing to make adjustments, there is no reason you cannot continue to enjoy your favorite hobbies and activities, participate in family activities, do volunteer work, or travel. The challenges are consistently overcome each day by individuals who have simply chosen to participate fully in society.
- You don’t have to stop working
With technical assistance and a few basic adjustments, most people who develop vision loss are able to remain in the work force—many even continue in their current jobs.
- You can remain independent. Whether you are experiencing a modest vision decline or are facing total vision loss, affordable and accessible solutions and tools exist to help you to cook your meals safely, navigate your home, pay your bills, and perform other essential tasks on your own. Better still, new advances in technology designed for people with vision loss are entering the marketplace almost daily, while mainstream products, such as computers and home appliances, can be adapted for your use with simple techniques.
(Source : http://www.visionaware.org , American Foundation for the Blind)
TIPS FOR THOSE ASSISTING THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED:
BLIND OR LOW VISION PERSONS
Approach, Ask, Assist.
- Approach: if you suspect someone may need a hand, walk up, greet them and identify yourself.
- Ask: “Would you like some help?” The person will accept your offer or tell you if they don’t require assistance.
- Assist: listen to the reply and assist as required. Not all people who are blind or vision impaired will want assistance – don’t be offended if your assistance is not required.
- Address people who are blind or have low vision by their names so they know you are speaking to them.
- Let the person who is blind or have low vision know that you have entered the room.
- Do not walk away from a person who is blind or have low vision without indicating that you are doing so – it is embarrassing and frustrating to talk to thin air.
- Let the person who is blind or have low vision take your arm.
- In dangerous situations say “STOP” rather than “LOOK OUT.”
- Do not relocate objects or furniture without telling the person who is blind or has low vision.
- Do not fill glasses or cups to the brim.
- Use ordinary language when directing or describing and be specific. Do not point, or say “over there”. Direct people who are blind or have low vision to THEIR left and right, not yours.
- Use words like “look” and “see”; they are part of everyone’s vocabulary. Otherwise both you and the person who is who is blind or have low vision will feel awkward.
- Describe the surroundings and obstacles in a person’s pathway (remember to look up as well as down). Warn of the presence of over-hangs, such as kitchen cupboards, jutting side mirrors of cars, or trees.
- Do not leave doors ajar. Close them or open them fully.
- Be aware that the person who is blind or has low vision will be disadvantaged by not seeing what is going on. Therefore talk about what is happening.
- Ask people who are blind or have low vision what they want or need. Do not direct questions through their companion.
- If people who are blind or have low vision extend their hands to shake, do so.
- When seating people who are blind or have low vision, put their hands on the back of the chair and they will then be able to seat themselves.