Blindness can be caused by things like genetics, infection, disease or injury. To be legally blind means that someone has vision that measures 20/200 or worse, explains the Iowa Department for the Blind.
For example, someone with 20/200 vision sees an object from 20 feet that a person with 20/20 vision is able to see from 200 feet. Becoming familiar with the challenges that blindness creates can help sighted people understand what people with no, or severely restricted vision, face each day.
People who are completely blind or have impaired vision usually have a difficult time navigating outside the spaces that they're accustomed to. In fact, physical movement is one of the biggest challenges for blind people, explains World Access for the Blind. Traveling or merely walking down a crowded street can be challenging. Because of this, many people with low vision will prefer to travel with a sighted friend or family member when navigating unfamiliar places.
Also, blind people must memorize the location of every obstacle or item in their home environment. Objects like beds, tables and chairs must not be moved without warning to prevent accidents. If a blind person lives with others, each member of the household has to be diligently about keeping walkways clear and all items in their designated locations.
Blindness can cause significant social challenges, typically because there are activities in which blind people can't easily participate. Frequently, blindness impacts a person’s ability to perform many job functions, which can limit their career options, according to the World Health Organization. This may adversely affect their finances, and their self esteem.
Blindness may also cause difficulties when participating in activities outside of the workplace, such as sports and recreational activities. This can limit the blind person’s ability to socialize and meet new people, affecting their emotional health.
Blindness can make it difficult to use the internet for research, recreation, social media and shopping.
For example, someone who is blind can't directly read the information on a web page. Total blindness can make it necessary to rely on screen reading software to have the information read as audio. This can make surfing the web a slow and cumbersome process. Instead of seeing a picture, someone who is blind must rely on a description of what the picture shows.
Even those who, although not completely blind, have extremely poor vision, may have difficulty with small fonts, interpreting icons and perceiving the colors used by many sites, according to the University of Wisconsin. People who have very poor vision will typically need special equipment or software that can enlarge screen images, so they're easier to see.
The small touch screens of many tablets and smartphones may be particularly difficulty for the visually impaired, because their small size limits how large an image can be magnified.
- World Access for the Blind: Blindness: Challenge and Achievement
- World Health Organization: Socio-Economic Aspects of Blindness and Visual Impairment
- University of Wisconsin KnowledgeBase: Web Accessibility – Common Problems People with Websites
- Iowa Department for the Blind: Legal Definition of Blindness