5 facts about blindness and the blind
There are currently more than 285 million visually impaired people in the world, a number that is expected to triple in the next 30 years. According to the World Health Organization, around 80% of visual impairment is avoidable, which pinpoints the importance of raising awareness about the subject and the methodical examination of our sight. Thinking about blindness or a blind person, one might draw a picture in their mind. How realistic are our perceptions about blind people? Here are five simple facts about living with blindness.
- Blind people do not have heightened senses
Individuals who live with blindness don't have senses with superpowers, though, they depend upon their other senses to navigate in the world. Hearing is the basic sense for blind people, while for the sighted is their vision. Hence, when the latter is preoccupied looking at a movie, blind people depend upon their hearing to follow it. In other words, visually impaired people rely on their hearing while sighted people pay less attention to it because they're busy looking at information, instead. Hence, there is the misconception that blind people have a more advanced hearing sense, while they simply rely more on it to make sense of the world.
- Blind people dream when they're asleep
In the manner that a sighted person dreams with their active senses, just like that, a blind person dreams as well. Individuals that have lost their sight at a later stage in life claim to dream with images, something that slowly fades as time progresses. People that were born blind dream as well, experiencing their dreams with their active senses. They hear and feel a dream while they don't see images like sighted people.
- Blind people can use computers and smartphones
Some visually impaired individuals have partial sight, making it possible for them to see a computer or smartphone screen with the help of a magnifier. People with greater sight-loss, though, access the computer with the help of assistive technology, in two different ways. One way is with the use of a Braille display, which connects to the computer and converts the text into Braille, line-by-line. Another way of accessing the computer is a screen reader that reads out the information seen on the computer screen. The latter is implemented on smartphones as well, where individuals can use assistive technology like TalkBack or VoiceOver to access their phone.
- Blindness is not being in the dark
Sighted people tend to think that closing their eyes can offer a glimpse into what blind people see. That, however, is far from reality. There are different types of sight loss because of the various causes of blindness. In some cases, blind individuals can see large objects but their vision is out of focus, while some others may see colors. Seeing the different sources of light, called light perception, is another form of blindness, alongside tunnel vision and many more. Though, one point to consider is the fact that individuals who were born blind cannot tell whether they see total black or not because, simply, they can't really tell.
- Blind people don't (have to) look blind
Numerous individuals living with sight loss express their frustration about sighted individuals doubting their visual impairment. Blind people learn how to interact with others and how to do things, regardless their visual impairment. In reality, it is estimated that around 2% to 8% of blind individuals use their cane to navigate. Others rely on their guide dog, their partial sight or their sighted guide. Apart from navigation, blind individuals can do pretty much everything a sighted person can; they can cook, put on make up and, simply, be independent. With the help of accessible technology or products, and their own will-power, blind people can be independent. Eventually, this is what makes sighted people to not believe their own eyes.
Overall, it is essential to comprehend that blind people are just like everyone else. Pete Eckert, one of the most admired blind photographers, could not have summed up better the reason he chose to practice photography as a visually impaired individual. "What I get out of taking photos is the event not the picture. I do the large prints to get sighted people thinking. Talking with people in galleries builds a bridge between my mind’s eye and their vision of my work. Occasionally people refuse to believe I am blind. I am a visual person. I just can’t see," Pete Eckert.