Mid-South Access Center for Technology (ACT) College of Education, Health and Human Sciences Mid-South Access Center for Technology (ACT)
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VATR Lab

What Are Visual Impairments?

The terms "blindness" and "vision impairment" may mean either a complete or partial loss of vision. For some persons, only the edges or a part of the visual field might be obscured, or some persons might have no central vision although side or peripheral vision still exists. A person's visual acuity might also change under different light conditions

People who are blind cannot use a computer monitor and must receive information from their computers via another sense—hearing or touch.

People with low vision can also receive information through sound or touch, or they can modify their computer displays so the screen is more legible.

Many people who are blind get around on their own by using a guide dog or cane.

People with vision impairments might or might not use these or other mobility aids.

For many jobs, even those requiring lots of reading, vision is not necessary.

Successful employment of people who are blind or who have vision impairments depends upon thorough job analysis, employer acceptance, and proper management support.

Consider the following suggestions when interacting with individuals who are blind or who have vision impairments:

Offer assistance, but don't insist. If a person who is blind needs guidance through a door or to a chair, let the person take your arm and follow the motion of your body. Tell him or her where the chair is in relation to his or her body. If the person approaches steps, mention how many and the direction.

Speak directly to the individual who is blind or who has a vision impairment, using a normal tone of voice.

When greeting a person with a severe loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. Example: “On my right is Robert Smith." This will assist the individual with orientation to the room and its occupants.

Never touch or distract a service guide dog without first asking the owner for permission. Service animals are not pets and generally should not be disturbed while in a working mode.

When conversing in a group, identify the person to whom you are speaking. Let the person know if you move or need to end the conversation.

When giving directions, do not use references the person who is blind cannot see. For example, "over there" or “up ahead" is not a good way of describing a location.More appropriate words are “two feet to your left" or “beside you on the right."

Tell the individual when someone is leaving the room.

When guiding a person into a new or strange surrounding, describe special features or decorations.

Be prepared to read aloud information that is written, or ask the person if he or she could use the services of a trained reader.

When interviewing or meeting with people with vision impairments, ask whether they would prefer a well-lit area. Avoid sharp contrasts of light and dark areas.

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Last Updated: 7/10/12