Explaining Vision Loss

The More You Know

"Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." ~Helen Keller

Less than 3 percent of blindness or visual impairment is the result of injuries. Almost all vision loss in the United States is the result of an eye condition and each condition leaves a different type of impairment. For example, macular degeneration affects central vision while glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa can cause peripheral vision to deteriorate. Yet, diabetic retinopathy can end up in either total blindness or a somewhat simple decreased acuity. No two visually impaired people are exactly alike or see the same, if at all.

Most people do not understand blindness or visual impairments and carry around a lot of myths and misunderstandings. So don't be surprised by friends or family members, and sometimes even strangers, who ask you what it's like to be blind, if you can see anything, or, how you do the simplest task like dressing yourself. Many people with vision loss don't mind explaining to an uninformed person what they can or cannot see but, just as many do not want to engage in such a conversation. If you do not, please don't feel that it is your duty to educate everyone. You can politely ignore them or, better yet, just say that it is something you don't wish to discuss.

However, when talking with your current or potential employer or co-workers, especially if they do not know anyone who is blind or visually impaired, it pays to educate them about your abilities and limitations and how, with proper training and accommodations, you will be able to continue working at your job. Talk to them about your ability to get around your work site and to and from work. Explain Orientation & Mobility skills that enable you to travel to and from places independently, the assistive technologies and other devices you use to perform tasks (especially work related ones), reading and writing alternatives, etc. and let them know that if you ever need help you will ask. This way they will know what to expect and where help might be needed at times. The more comfortable you are with yourself as a visually impaired person, the more comfortable others are around you.

Written for employers, the following three articles contain important information that employees should know too. Although employers are becoming better educated, still a lot are not aware of this information, so if you do, it gives you some leverage to better bargain for yourself and a chance to share your knowledge with him/her. And, hopefully, lead to an interesting discussion and an opportunity for the employer to get to know you better.

Resources that will help you educate others

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