May 7, 2010, Newsletter Issue #52: Coping with Blindness: Facts

Tip of the Week

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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