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Resource Guide for the Blind

Over 1.3 million legally blind individuals in the United States. Out of those people, 93,600 are school aged children. By the year 2030, it’s estimated that the number of legally blind people that live in the United States will almost double, reaching approximately 2.4 million people. In order for a person to be considered legally blind, their visual acuity has to be equal to or less than 20/200 (6/60). When an individual loses all ability to perceive light, they are defined as being totally blind, which is also referred to as having no light perception (NLP). However, there are varying degrees of blindness, and the majority of the legally blind community has some degree of light and shape perception – only 10% of all legally blind individuals have completely lost the ability to perceive light.

Classifications

Blindness is classified according to the severity of the vision loss. The primary types of blindness include total blindness, legal blindness, color blindness and low vision. Color blindness affects a person’s ability to detect changes in certain colors, like red and green. When an individual has low vision, or just barely considered legally blind, they can still see basic shapes and perceive changes in light without the use of a corrective lens. Additionally, some people are unable to see shapes and detail, but they are able to detect changes in light; this is only a step above being totally blind. Sometimes, people can be both deaf and blind, which is referred to as deaf-blindness. Usually, deaf-blindness accompanies other medical conditions, like Autism Spectrum Disorders or Down Syndrome.

Causes

Blindness is caused by a combination of genetic predisposition, diseases and injury to the cornea or optical nerve bundle. Sometimes, children are born completely blind, as well. Additionally, some cases of blindness are a result of the side effects of medication or poisoning by toxic chemicals. Four of the leading causes of sight impairment around the world include cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and corneal opacity. Diabetic retinopathy is also a very common denominator among blind individuals. The onset of symptoms is usually gradual when vision loss is age related, which is why it’s very important to receive regular eye exams to catch the warning signs early on.

Aids and Adaptive Techniques

Just like there are varying levels of blindness, there are also different types of treatments, aids and adaptive techniques to help legally blind individuals lead a fulfilling life. For example, guide dogs and canes are two of the most common methods of coping with visual impairment. Visually impaired individuals can learn how to read through the use of Braille, and clothes can be labeled with special tags to make getting dressed easier. Additionally, as technology continues to advance, many computers and other electronic devices are incorporating refreshable Braille displays and ways to further magnify the text so that the display is readable for everyone. There is also a growing number of websites that are converting their content to audio, and changing the layout of their design so that it’s easier for visually impaired people to access the information.

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