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Blindness / Visual Impairments

More than 1 million Americans 40 and over are blind. An additional 2.3 million Americans have low vision or are partially sighted. Seventeen percent of Americans who are 45 or older report some type of vision impairment even when wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. This percentage rises with age, to 26% of people age 75 and older.

Many people who are called “blind” have some vision. Some people may be able to read large print and move about without use of a white cane or guide dog in many or all situations, may be able to perceive light and darkness, and perhaps see some colors. Some people may have better vision one day than another, or see better in certain lighting conditions.

People use different techniques to do things, according to their preferences, skills, and needs. For example, to access printed material, some people may use Braille; others may use large print, magnifiers and telescopes, closed-circuit TVs, computer-generated text-to-voice, or audio-publications on tape or CD.

Eliminating tripping hazards; painting white strips on sidewalk edges; pruning low-hanging branches adjacent to sidewalks; having Braille and large print signage, hymnals, meeting agendas and minutes, newsletters and orders of service; painting a strip of white or yellow on the edges of steps; having lighting with no glare or dark areas, are some examples that create an atmosphere which is environmentally welcoming and accessible to someone with visual limitations.

Your local Independent Living Center may be able to answer your questions and/or help assess your campus.

These resource organizations on the internet may be useful. These are advocacy organizations of blind folks, rather than organizations "for the blind" (as was explained by a Unitarian Universalist consultant who is blind):

Remember, each person is unique, whether or not they are blind or have vision problems. Therefore, it is impossible to make universal statements about what will enable us all, in our diversity, to be welcomed through accommodation. As with all reciprocal relationships, it is always important and appropriate to ask the people being welcomed what will work for them.

Until you know someone who is visually impaired, you may never have had any need to think about the key points that make relationships easier and more relaxed. With the intent to create a welcoming and relaxed environment for everyone, here are some ground rules we should all keep in mind.

If you have any uncertainty about what is and is not courteous, tactful behavior toward a friend, relative, or stranger who is blind or visually impaired, the American Foundation for the Blind offers helpful guidelines:

For more information contact access @

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, August 22, 2013.

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