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Visual Impairment

What is a visual impairment? This is the partial or total loss of vision or ability to see or read.

Visual impairments can be categorised as follows:

Partially sighted (also known as B3): experience some difficulty seeing or reading. These individuals can benefit from medically recommended lenses. They have less challenges while using their sight for mobility purposes but are mostly affected when it comes to reading. They can also benefit from large print.

Low vision (also known as B2): experience a lot of difficulty seeing or reading. They may have residual or little sight, and/or be able to make it forms and shadows. People with low vision require assistive devices and accommodations to see and read (such as large print or magnifiers.). At some point, they may find it challenging to move during certain hours, especially evenings or nighttime. They are also encouraged to learn Braille because over time, their sight keeps deteriorating and could become totally blind.

Totally blind (also known as B1): inability to see at all. These individuals need non-visual resources, such as Braille or audio, mobility aids such as a white cane and/or sighted guidance.

It is good to be aware of the distinction between blindness and low vision. People with low vision are still able to use their sight, although this may be limited. They may for example be able to read large print and thus have different inclusion needs than people who are totally blind.

In some countries, albinism may be combined under visual impairments while other contexts, categorized as a separate group.

How to refer to someone with a visual impairment

This ‘person-first’ language has received wide acceptance among persons with disabilities and their representative organisations.

There are also many local derogatory names used in communities and at schools to refer to people with visual impairments. Such names affect their self-esteem and personal motivation and should be avoided.

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