Intro to Visual Impairment

By Carla Ruschival

About 10 million people in the United States are blind or visually impaired, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. Approximately 5.5 million of these are elderly, age 65 or older. Of the 75-and-over age group, one of every four people in the country has a significant vision loss, most often caused by age-related macular degeneration or diabetes.

The American Foundation for the Blind estimates that 93,600 children are blind or visually impaired, with 55,200 being legally blind (seeing 20/200 or less with best correction).

Blind and visually-impaired people come in all shapes and sizes. They come from all races and ethnic backgrounds. They may have a Ph.D. or a high-school diploma.

Britni is a beautiful baby. But she doesn't reach for her rattles until they make a noise. She doesn't look at her hands or smile until someone speaks. Britni is blind.

Bob is a successful salesman. He just wrecked his third car yesterday. Bob knows why, but he can't tell his family. Bob is losing his vision.

Mary's grandkids look forward to receiving personalized handmade quilts from Grandma. But lately Mary's been making excuses; she's just been too busy to get all that work done by the holidays. But the real reason is that Mary can't see to thread the needle or make straight stitches any more.

Is there a future for Britni? Is life on a fast track to nowhere for Bob? Will Mary have to give up her lifelong hobbies, with no hope of any substitute?

Yes, there is a future for Britni. And of course Bob and Mary don't have to give up the things they love. But this is true ONLY if they and their families find help and learn to accept, and cope with, their vision loss.

A world with little or no vision is a different world, but it is not a hopeless and bleak world. It is a world that can be filled with opportunities, activities, and good times.

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