Coping With Blindness Tips

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Are there books that are printed for the blind or visually impaired?

Coping with Blindness: Reading

With advanced technology, it is getting easier for the blind and visually impaired to sit down and enjoy a good book. Bookshare.org is a site that acts as a central repository for scanned books. They are available for download over the internet. Bookshare does charge a small fee, but other sites have a limited selection of books that can be downloaded for free.

Books can be downloaded in digital grade 2 Braille or in the DAISY format. The books can be read using a refreshable Braille device or other accessible software program (such as Bookshare's Victor Reader Soft DAISY book player, provided with membership to Bookshare). The books at Bookshare have full text, but no pre-recorded audio, thereby necessitating the use of a book player.

Other options include buying or downloading audio books on cassette or CD. These can be listened to in a standard cassette tape or CD player. Some audio books may also be free, depending on the book and the site where you find it.

   
Where can a visually impaired or blind person find information and services?

Coping with Blindness: Services and Information on Blindness

While there are many reference sites with information on blindness, the best sites to use are government sites and organizations. The Library of Congress has a list of sites with not only information on blindness, but other resources for the blind and visually impaired, including:

  • National consumer organization sites such as American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (AAF) and American Council of the Blind (ACB). AAF offers newsletters and other material about blindness and visual impairments, along with free Braille calendars, and Twin Vision books in both print and in Braille. The ACB is a national membership organization that helps the blind and visually impaired by advocating several issues, including civil rights, educational opportunities, vocational training, social security benefits, and health and social services.
  • Organizations that provide reading services such as the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS), and the Library of Congress. APH is the “official source of educational texts (primary through secondary level) for students who are visually impaired in the United States and its territories.” The IAAIS provides an online listing of radio reading services in the United States, Toronto and Levin, New Zealand. Internet broadcasters deliver audio broadcasts of daily newspapers and other printed materials. The Library of Congress administers a free national library program of Braille and recorded books and magazines.

These are just a few of the resources for information and services for the blind and visually impaired. Also included are National Professional Organizations, Organizations that Focus on Children, Organizations that Focus on Eye Diseases and Injuries, and Organizations that Provide Financial and Other Assistance.

   

Coping with Blindness: SSI, Money Issues

A blind or severely visually impaired individual can receive social security or SSI disability if he or she is considered legally blind. Even though disability payments are not enough to live on in most areas of the country, there is some help for the blind from the government. While the formal definition of being legally blind is 20/200 vision or worse, even with corrective lenses, the social security administration considers a person legally blind if vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in the better eye. It also considers a person legally blind if the visual field is 20 degrees or less in the better eye.

On money matters, the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/22/nyregion/22blind.html) reports that in May of 2008, the federal appeals court panel in Washington upheld a lower court ruling that says the government discriminates against the blind and partly blind because paper money is all the same size with the same texture. If the ruling stands, the Treasury Department will have to redesign bills. If the bills are redesigned, vending machines will have to be refitted for the new currency.

This is a big issue for the blind and visually impaired, as people cannot rely on sighted people to be honest about the face value of each bill. Many times, a sighted person will tell the blind or visually impaired that the bill is a $1 bill, when in fact it is a $5 or a $20 dollar bill.

   
What is the leading cause of blindness?

Coping with Blindness: Facts

Being able to read and write is of great societal importance. A person with a visual impairment is considered illiterate if he or she cannot read Braille, according to definition. Statistics were taken from the Braille Institute. Because of the importance of literacy, the Braille Institute dedicates much of its resources to help increase Braille literacy in the blind community. Ninety percent of blind jobholders in the United States are Braille literate. Thirty-three states have enacted bills that promote Braille instruction in school (grades K-12).

A person is considered legally blind if “their central vision acuity is 20/200 or less in the better eye, even with corrective lenses.” If the central vision acuity is more than 20/200 but the peripheral field is “restricted to a diameter of 20 degrees or less,” a person is considered legally blind.

About 7.3 million (about 25 percent of the population) people over the age of 65 have some form of vision impairment. Diabetics are 25 time more likely to go blind than non-diabetics. In the United States, there are 15 million people who are either blind or have some other vision impairment.

Women live longer than men, so visual impairment statistics are overrepresented in favor or women. One in 20 preschool-age kids (ages 3 to 5) is affected by vision problems. About 25 percent of school-age (6 to 17) children are affected by vision problems. Seventy percent of blind or severely visually impaired people are over 65, and out of that group, 50 percent are legally blind.

There are aids for the blind and visually impaired, but not many blind people make use of these aids—only 2 percent of legally blind people use a guide dog and 35 percent use a white cane.

Leading causes of blindness include age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related cataracts.

   
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