“In the UK, it is estimated that there are over 2 million people living with sight loss” – Source – RNIB Key Facts and Statistics.
February 2019 is Low Vision Awareness Month!
Low vision, to some, is self-explanatory however it can be complex. The term is used when a person’s sight loss cannot be rectified by prescription glasses, medication, treatment or surgery
I woke up one morning, back in April 2017 to discover I had a faint blind spot in the centre of my right eye. I thought it was just because I had not long woken up and assumed it would fade in a while.
Throughout the day, while at work, the blind spot became bigger. It was not until I tried to look for a customer’s details on the computer that I realised I could not see anything other than my peripheral (side) vision. I maximised the zoom, on the page, however I was still having great difficulty in reading.
The day after, it occurred in my left eye too.
After numerous appointments to undergo a variety of tests, it was not until I saw a Professor at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, that I received a diagnosis of Optic Neuropathy. This means my optic nerve is severely damaged to the point of not being able to have it reversed. The only way to describe what it is like is:
- Look at a person or an object.
- Now imagine the central field of your vision is very blurred.
- Then in the centre of the blind spot, imagine a static screen, of a TV.
That’s what I live with.
Unfortunately, nothing has helped however I have learned to rely on my peripheral vision. At first, it was extremely difficult but as time went on and the more I got used to it, it became natural to me.
“Less than 1 in 3 registered blind and partially sighted people were offered mobility training, and only one in five received any practical support around the home.” – Source – RNIB Key Facts and Statistics
This statistic needs to change and it needs to start changing NOW. I did not receive any support until 10 months after I first experienced my slight loss. I didn’t know what to do, my family didn’t know what to do. Eventually, a sensory support worker, from my local council, came to visit me. She taught me how to use a white cane and offered me a variety of equipment which made a significant improvement in my daily life.
The equipment included:
- Day Lamp – A floor-standing lamp with an adjustable ‘neck’ to help me read. These can come in different sizes, e.g. Table lamps.
- Bump-ons – These are raised coloured stickers to place on light switches or household item switches to enable me to feel the sticker and then press down.
- A house phone with large buttons so I could see the numbers clearly.
If you know someone who has started to experience sight loss, then please continue to support them. Make them aware that there is support out there. Help them contact their local council to enquire about a sensory support worker. These guys are a gamechanger!
I cannot stress enough how vital it is to seek support ASAP. This can help prevent accidents and falls. You could potentially help save a person’s life.
Causes of Sight Loss
Common causes include:
• AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration)
And many, many others. I will be honest, if you require more tests then these won’t be standard optician appointment procedures. These tests can be long. One test even left me in tears because my eyes could not take anymore. If you are asked to undergo a test, be sure to ask what the test involves, how long it could take. Check all of these before your appointment so you can prepare.
Ways to Protect Your Eyes
- Be sure to book your eye test at least once every 2 years.
- Stop smoking.
- Have a varied wnr balanced diet.
- Wear sunglasses – Then you’re always ready to take a fab selfie too!
- Wear safety goggles during DIY and the appropriate gear during sports – Better to be safe than sorry!
“Only 1 in 4 registered blind or partially sighted people of working age is in employment” – Source – RNIB Key Facts and Statistics
Another statistic that needs to change. Considering how fast technology is constantly upgrading and improving, employers MUST make reasonable adjustments for the employee concerned. Stop saying ‘NO‘ and instead, start saying ‘YES!’ to potential candidates with sight loss. We still have the ability to carry out tasks just like the next person, we just do it differently.