8 misconceptions about visual impairment and blindness busted

There are many misunderstandings and preconceived ideas surrounding disability. By tackling these, we can hopefully help to raise awareness and educate others. Here, blogger Holly, who runs Life of a Blind Girl, runs down 8 myths about visual impairment and being blind.

I’m Holly, a disability blogger who is also registered blind. I’ve come across many misconceptions surrounding visual impairment and disability over the years, and I always try to educate people when I can.

1. All blind people see total darkness

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) found that 93% of blind and visually impaired people have some useful vision.

For instance, I have a condition called retinopathy of prematurity as I was born at 24 weeks. There are five stages of this condition, so vision can vary for everyone that has it.

I have a detached retina in my left eye, so have no useful vision in it. But I have light perception in my right eye, meaning that I can see light and dark. I definitely use my light perception more than I realise!

Holly stood against a railing with the sea behind her wearing a black coat

2. Blind and visually impaired people have amazing hearing

We learn to use our other senses effectively, but they aren’t heightened because of our visual impairment.

People often say to me: “You have amazing hearing,” but I honestly don’t think I do. I just rely on it more than sighted people.

3. Blind and visually impaired people can’t use technology

Assistive technology, such as screen readers, magnification software/magnifiers and braille displays, are all incredibly useful for people who are blind or visually impaired. So not only can we use assistive tech, we often use it every single day.

Mainstream technology also has built-in accessibility features, so it is inclusive and accessible whether or not you have a visual impairment.

We can browse websites, purchase things online, keep in touch with friends and family, use social media, read, listen to music and do work-related tasks, to name just a few, all thanks to the power of assistive tech and accessibility features.

Technology plays a huge part in my life – it enables me to do so many things. If it wasn’t for technology, then I’d be unable to do my job and live my life like everyone else.

Check out our article on the top assistive tech for blind and visually impaired people.

4. Blind and visually impaired people can’t be independent

Independence seems such a simple thing, doesn’t it? Yet when I tell people that I travel independently, hold down a job and live a fulfilling, busy and active life, they are amazed, even surprised.

I may not be able to see, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be independent. My long cane and the help of technology enable me to live my life and be independent, with just a few adaptions.

Holly walking with her cane on a path next to bushes

5. We can’t hold down a job

With the right adjustments and support, people with sight-loss can work just as well as sighted people. I am the only blind person in my workplace, but this doesn’t stop me from holding down my job.

Access to Work provides ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help me in the workplace, such as assistive technology and equipment, a support worker or help with travel costs.

Some sighted people also think that blind and visually impaired people don’t want to work. Actually, we do.

Take a look at Holly’s previous article for Disability Horizons with top tips to help you find for a job if you have a disability.

6. You have to change your vocabulary when talking to us

As a blind person, I say things that reference vision, such as, “I’m watching the TV” or “Have you seen that?”

You aren’t going to offend us if you use that kind of language. In fact, we’re more likely to notice if you try to change the wording of something when talking to us.

Someone once said to me that they didn’t want to say: “See you later” as I couldn’t see them. So I had to explain that it was okay for them to do so and it just felt really awkward.

7. Our visual impairment stops us from having a sense of style

We may not be able to see a nice outfit or a good make-up look, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate it in other ways, such as the way it makes us feel.

The visual aspects of beauty and fashion are an important factor for some people, but it doesn’t have to be like that for everyone.

Beauty and fashion can be accessible; it just requires a few tweaks and adaptions, such as learning to apply makeup by touch or organising clothes in a way that works for you.

I’ve learned to apply my makeup by counting and the sense of touch. It took a while, but I got there.

I also have my own ways of identifying my clothes and beauty products; for me, organisation is key.

Read our article on how fashion and beauty brands can be more accessible to visually impaired people.

8. We want a cure

Holly stood in front of York Minster, cobbled street and houses in background, wearing blue jacket

People assume that I must wake up every single day waiting and hoping for a cure for my visual impairment. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Some blind and visually impaired people may hope that there is a cure for their sight-loss one day. It might also be something they think about regularly, and that’s OK.

Personally, I don’t want to spend my life waiting for a cure when it might not happen. I want to see my vision impairment as an ability and see it in a positive way.

By Holly

You can find out more about Holly by reading her blog, Life of a Blind Girl, and following her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

More on Disability Horizons…

Holly Tuke

I am an award-winning disability blogger, freelance writer and disability advocate. I currently split my time between working within the charity sector, writing articles for publications, doing a bit of radio presenting and creating content for my own blog. I created Life of a Blind Girl in 2015 as a way of sharing my experiences of living with a vision impairment in a predominantly sighted world. Over on the blog, I discuss all aspects of vision impairment and disability, as well as a few concert-related blog posts thrown in the mix.
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