Blindness and Visual Impairment

The need for resources to serve the needs of the blind and visually impaired is significant. According to the statistics posted on the National Federation of the Blind website:

  • 1.3 million blind person in this country
  • 93,600 blind school age children
  • 787,691 seniors aged 65 and older are blind and according to projections, these numbers will increase to 1.6 million by 2015 and 2.4 million by 2030
  • Only 1% of the blind population is born without sight. The vast majority of blind people lose their vision later in life due to macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetes. There are treatments to delay these conditions, but there are no cures.

Conditions leading to vision loss or impairment

  • Macular Degeneration, central vision deteriorates resulting in blurred vision and eventually leading to blindness
  • Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve through pressure; peripheral vision is affected first
  • Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that occurs when the tiny blood vessels inside the retina are damaged

Defining Visual Impairment

  • Partially Sighted- indicates some type of visual impairment that results in the need for special education
  • Low Vision- severe visual impairment; applies to those who are unable to read a newspaper at normal viewing distance even with the aid of eyeglasses or contact lenses. They may require adaptations in lighting, print size and sometimes Braille
  • Legally Blind- applies to an individual with less than 20/200 vision in the better eye or very limited field of vision (20 degrees at the widest point)
  • Totally Blind- applies to an individual who can see nothing. Learning must be done by Braille or other non-visual media