People with print disabilities
People with print disabilities are those who:
- cannot read standard print because of blindness or vision impairment
- have a physical disability which prevents them holding or turning the pages of a book or printed item
- due to a learning or concentration difficulty, cannot follow a line of print
Severe vision impairment is the most easily recognisable of conditions which give rise to a print disabilities. Some other conditions which can give rise to a print disability include:
These conditions can result in significant additional handicaps to a print handicap. Because they vary so greatly, it is not possible to make general statements about interaction with people experiencing them. However, it is possible to provide a number of general observations about interacting with people with significant vision impairment which is perhaps the most commonly encountered print disability.
Facts about vision impairment
D E S C R I P T I O N
Following the World Health Organisation’s typology of impairment, disability and handicap, severe vision impairment can be understood as:
- impairment denotes limitation of one or basic components of the visual system, – the eye, optic nerve and visual centre in the brain
- disability refers to the lack, loss or reduction of the ability to perform certain tasks such as reading, writing and driving
- handicap refers to social and environmental factors and results in disadvantage in areas such as education, employment, leisure and recreation
WHO describes profound blindness as the inability to count fingers at a distance of three metres or less, and severe low vision as the inability to count fingers at six metres or less. There are many different eye defects and diseases which cause vision impairment. The most common are cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
A person is considered legally blind if able to see something at six metres that a person with full vision could see at 60 metres.
C A U S E S A N D P R EV A L E N C E
While severe vision impairment can be present at birth, injury, infection, diseases and conditions associated with ageing are more common causes of vision impairment than birth or genetic defects. Approximately 80 percent of people with vision impairments are over 65. Approximately 12 percent of the Australian population has some sight loss.
F U N C T I O N A L I M P L I C AT I O N S F O R
EV E R Y D A Y L I V I N G
The inability to read is probably the most notable of the everyday functions which are significantly affected by severe vision loss. Inability to read can substantially affect competence in absorbing complex or detailed information and reduce or complicate the process of acquisition of some skills since a high percentage of learning involves the use of sight.
Restrictions on mobility can also be significant and this can affect education, leisure, employment and social and personal opportunities. Safety is an issue in negotiating the built environment and also in using the public transport system.
Severe vision loss can also reduce the effectiveness of communication as many visual cues in the communication process are missed.
I N D I V I D U A L V A R I AT I O N S
Very few vision impaired people are totally blind. The image of the person living in total blackness with a guide dog or white cane fits only a very small proportion of those who are blind or vision impaired. A minority of blind people can distinguish light but nothing else. Many lack central or peripheral vision.
Some see things as a vague blur. Some may be able to negotiate supermarket aisles, but be unable to read shelf labels. Others can read the labels but not negotiate the aisles. Some vision impairments vary in their effects from day to day as different parts of the field of vision are faulty. Some vision impairments are not readily apparent to other people.
S E R V I C E S, A I D S, I N T E R V E N T I O N S
There are many services and aids available to people with vision impairments to help them live more independent and successful lives.
Services of assistance include:
counselling – vocational, educational, personal, financial
needs assessments – personal, daily living, educational and recreational needs
specialist library services
Aids which can assist include:
talking calculators, clocks, watches
talking, large print and braille books
talking and Braille computers
scanners which convert print into speech or electronic formats
Braille “typewriters” and writing slates
The Resources guide lists organisations which are able to assist with information relating to the provision of these aids and services.