The Vision Rehab Podcast is a short monthly podcast about topics and issues related to vision rehabilitation therapists and vision rehab. You can also listen on your smart speaker, just ask for, “Vision Rehab Podcast.”
February is low vision awareness month and Macular Degeneration Awareness month, and seems like a perfect time to talk about the language we use for vision loss. In a NY Times Opinion piece from 2014 titled “Why Do We Fear the Blind Rosemary Mahoney pointed out the great fear we often have toward people who are blind. I wonder, to what degree, any of us with a diagnosis of vision loss find ourselves fearful of where this might go? Will we someday be blind? I can only speak for myself, and share that when I first learned of my own progressive eye condition 30 years ago, I became very anxious about this ultimately resulting in blindness. I knew nothing about blindness, partial sight, low vision, or any of that, although I’d been profoundly near-sighted my whole life.
The idea of blindness conjured up images of dependence and limitations. I was not interested in learning more about it, I was interested in avoiding it.
So, as a result of my own fear of low vision and blindness, I avoided a rather large community of people with a vision loss, who had a lot to offer me. It is through this community of people I learned to get back to reading, using the computer, advocating for causes related to vision loss, even a new profession. Nearly 5% of us in the U.S. have a vision loss, about 1 in every 20 people. And if you’re over the age of 70, you’re in even better company, because nearly 1 in 5 in this age group has a vision loss that can’t be corrected with glasses.
So there are a lot more of us in this community than you’re aware of. And we are all in different places with our language about it. Some of us are blind, some legally blind, some call it low vision, or partial sight, doctors may call it visually impaired, and some may not want to label it at all.
Where ever you are on this spectrum, I want to encourage you to look into a welcoming community of others with a vision loss through a local agency or one of several consumer groups. There’s a really good chance these agencies and consumer groups are also going to use the word blind, or visually impaired in them. For example, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the American Council of the Blind (ACB), or American Federation of the Blind (AFB). You’ll find these groups on the web or you can call the APH Connect Center at 800-232-5463.
If you have a vision loss that is not corrected with glasses, regardless of what you choose to call it, partial sight, poor vision, or blindness, you may find a welcoming community connected with a local agency for the blind and visually impaired. You can find one of these agencies by calling the Connect Center, or just looking online using the VisionAware Directory of Services at www.visionaware.org/directory.
By all means, don’t let the language of vision loss get in your way of connecting with a community that is both knowledgeable and supportive.