Understanding Blindness and Visual Impairments
People often have misconceptions about blindness and visual impairments. We hope that this information can correct some of these and lead you to a clearer understanding.
There are many causes of blindness:
- Hereditary conditions
- Age-related conditions
Very few people who are considered blind are in fact totally blind. There is a wide range of visual impairments:
- Vision good enough to travel unaided
- Minimal vision at close range
- Light perception
- Total blindness
Each person’s visual impairment is unique. It is important to understand that each person functions as an individual according to his or her abilities and motivation. It is important to respect a person’s wish to be independent. Offer assistance, but allow the person who is visually impaired to decide whether help is necessary.
With vision loss, the other senses do not become more acute; a person simply learns to use them more fully.
Individuals who are blind or visually impaired may read through the use of Braille, large print, a magnifier, or recorded materials. They may write in Braille, in handwriting, or may type or dictate.
To get around, an individual has several options:
- A guide dog
- A white cane
- An electronic aid
- A sighted guide: a person who can see and has been trained to help
Each method requires special training. Remember, a guide dog is a working dog and should not be treated as a pet by other people.