Did you know that approximately 20 million Americans — 8 percent of the U.S. population — live with some form of visual impairment, according to the Health Policy Institute? And that number is expected to double by the year 2050. This staggering statistic highlights the importance of recognizing and understanding the challenges faced by those with low vision. As February unfolds, AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month provides a crucial opportunity to shed light on this growing issue.
Low vision refers to a visual impairment that cannot be fully corrected with glasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery. Individuals with low vision may have blind spots, blurry vision, or struggle to see images at a distance, leading to difficulties in daily tasks like cooking a meal or driving to work.
Low vision is not the same as blindness, as people with low vision retain some sight. The condition varies in severity, from mild vision loss to significant impairment, profoundly influencing the quality of life for those affected. Low vision can impact an individual’s ability to work, socialize, and care for themselves. In fact, visual impairments are among the leading causes of loss of independence in people over 65.
One prevalent cause of low vision is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive eye condition that causes loss in the middle of the field of vision, making activities like reading or recognizing faces difficult. Other common causes of low vision include diabetes and glaucoma.
Low vision can affect people of all ages. Understanding and addressing the challenges of low vision are crucial steps toward creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for those living with this condition.
The roots of AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month can be traced back to a collective effort to raise awareness about visual impairment and advocate for the rights of individuals with low vision. Various organizations, including the American Foundation for the Blind and Prevent Blindness, have played a role in establishing this dedicated month. Their aim is to educate the public about low vision, promote inclusivity, and support ongoing research and advancements in the field.
These and other advocacy efforts have led to several exciting developments. Assistive technologies like smart glasses, magnification software, and screen readers that improve accessibility for individuals with low vision are now widely available. Ongoing research into the causes and treatment of conditions leading to low vision, such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, has contributed to the development of powerful new drugs and treatments.
You can help keep this momentum going by participating in advocacy and outreach efforts during AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month. Here are five ways to get involved:
Knowledge is power, and in the case of low vision, it fosters empathy and understanding. During the month of February, set aside some time to learn about different aspects of low vision, from its causes to available support systems. Share this information with friends, family, and colleagues to help raise awareness.
Some places to learn more about low vision include:
Partner with local organizations focused on visual impairments to co-host events and fundraisers, share resources, or co-sponsor advocacy initiatives. This strengthens community ties and demonstrates a genuine commitment to making a positive impact.
For example, you might team up with local eyecare professionals to offer free or discounted vision screenings. Or, you might co-host a workshop on creating accessible environments that covers topics like accessible website design, inclusive event planning, and universal design principles for physical spaces.
Another way to foster inclusivity within your community is to advocate for accessible spaces and events. Encourage local businesses to take steps to include individuals with low vision, such as providing Braille menus or ensuring accessible entrances. Small changes can make a big difference.
Is your website accessible for people with low vision? You can test this by using the WAVE tool, which is available for free, to check for elements like alt text for images and compatibility with screen readers. Then, prioritize making at least one improvement as part of your commitment to inclusivity during Low Vision Awareness Month.
In addition to updating your website, AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month is a good time to review your hiring practices and create more inclusive employment opportunities for individuals with low vision. This can be as simple as offering interview accommodations to all applicants or implementing training programs for your employees to enhance their understanding of low vision. This not only supports your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts but also serves as a positive example for other businesses in your community.
By educating ourselves and promoting inclusivity within our workplaces and communities, we can make a meaningful impact in the lives of those living with low vision. For more disability-related events and observances you can participate in all year, download our free Disability Events Calendar.
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