What Is Blindness/Visual Impairment?
What is Blindness/Visual Impairment?
- Complete or nearly complete vision loss
- Many people regard blindness as the inability to see at all or to discern light from darkness
– Legally blind:
- Legally blind: In the US, any person with vision that cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in the best eye, or who has 20 degrees (diameter) or less of visual field remaining, is considered legally blind.
– Visual Impairment/low vision/partially sighted:
- Low vision means that even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people find everyday tasks difficult to do.
How is Blindness/Visual impairment Diagnosed?
Our pediatrician may diagnose blindness; parents may want to follow up with a pediatric ophthalmologist or a low vision specialist if your child is visually impaired. Parents should continue with eye exams and keep an eye on any new difficulties or diagnoses for your child.
Most Common Characteristics of Syndrome or Disability?
With blindness/visual impairment, you have lost one of the five senses. It can be devastating but many children & adults live with their blindness and learn accommodations for their daily skills.
There are many eye conditions under blindness/visual impairment. Even with the same diagnosis, each person’s vision will be different. Some people may be able to see shadows or only a small image; others may have a loss of central or peripheral sight, cloudy or blurry vision, or some images may be incomplete/missing (just a few examples).
Treating or Treatments?
Treatment will depend on what the eye condition is. There is no treatment for total blindness.
For a visual impairment, treatment can range from eye glasses or magnifiers to eye drops (glaucoma) to patching to strengthen one eye (amblyopia/lazy eye) to eye surgery (cataracts). It is best to consult with an ophthalmologist or low vision specialist. Each person is different so a treatment may work/work better for one person but not for another.
A child who is blind/visually impaired may need to learn to do an activity differently or use an accommodation; they may also use more hands-on/sensory learning to be able to see, touch and manipulate things with their hands. You will want to verbally tell your child everything is happening/what you see so they understand and get a picture in their minds.
There are also accommodations/courtesies for those who are blind/visually impaired: These should be used by the person who is blind, their family members, friends, and others the child comes in contact with. For example — directions should be specific – use left/right/straight rather than “over here” cause your child won’t see you to know where “over here” is.
A child/person who is blind may also need to learn Braille to read as well as a cane for orientation & mobility to safely and efficiently move from place to place. There is an Expanded Core Curriculum that our children should learn to fill in what they are not seeing with their vision loss.
Who should I consult if I suspect blindness/visual impairment?/first steps to take
Once you have a diagnosis from your pediatrician/pediatric ophthalmologist, these are the suggested calls to make in FL:
-FL School for the Deaf & Blind (birth to 6th birthday) for blind baby early intervention services in your home, these services are specific to blindness
-Early Intervention Services (birth to 3rd birthday) for early intervention services in your home
- FL Division of Blind Services – as your child ages out of the blind baby program, other services may be provided for all ages
Helpful strategies you’ve learned?
I joined and jumped head first into National Federation of the Blind (NFB) to learn about blindness and living with blindness. I was also able to tap into parents who have children who are blind/visually impaired. I wanted “first-hand knowledge” of what our children face, not only in school but in the world. I attended several state and national conventions to learn about blindness (from the adults) and the parents & the struggles they have faced and are facing. The Federationists are a treasure trove of info, support and encouragement! I was able to then support our daughter, who is legally blind.
I also had to educate myself on the federal IDEA law and state/district school laws specific to blindness for ESE (exceptional student education). I would again consult with the parents in NFB to ensure I knew what the laws were and what my parental rights were so that I could support and teach our daughter. Parents will want to know their rights and responsibilities to be able to effectively and collaboratively advocate for their child! (And yes, I learned the hard way – of not knowing my rights or how to advocate for our daughter!)
Resources you would recommend?
National Federation of the Blind (NFB) — NFB is the largest organization of people who are blind in the US. Since 1940, NFB has worked to improve the lives of people who are blind. Along with high expectations and strong values, NFB continues to empower members to live the life each one wants, and that includes independence and equality. NFB offers many programs, services, and resources for people who are blind/low-vision throughout the US.
National office: www.nfb.org
Florida affiliate: www.nfbflorida.org/
There are 13chapters throughout FL: www.nfbflorida.org/chapters.htm
October National Awareness Month:
Meet the Blind Month
White Cane Awareness Day is October 15; this year will be the 55th Anniversary (signed by President Johnson in 1964)
Named Blind Americans Equality Day by President Obama in 2011.
Doreen Franklin is a Special Ed Advocate and parent of 2 adopted daughters with diverse special needs. She assists parents with their understanding of legal policy, procedures, rights, & responsibilities under IDEA so parents can learn to collaboratively advocate for their child. She has been an Advocate & Coach since 2005. Doreen is also a private tutor and homeschooled her older daughter.