Frequently Asked Questions
- What causes vision loss and blindness?
There are many causes of vision loss and blindness. Some vision impairment and blindness is congenital (from birth, or onset during the pre-school years). However, most people who are vision impaired or blind lose their sight in later years, some through accidents. The most common causes of vision loss and blindness are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy.
- Are the other senses of a person who is blind strengthened?
Many have the misconception that people who are blind are endowed with other highly developed senses and skills. Loss of eyesight means learning to do familiar tasks differently and having to rely more on other senses; such as hearing and touching to adjust to ones surroundings.
- Why do some people who are blind use canes and others use guide dogs?
For some, a traditional white cane is a mobility tool used to effectively determine the physical environment and move around safely i.e.; locate steps, curbs, streets, driveways, doorways, elevators, escalators, etc. The cane is long enough to be about two steps ahead of the person’s feet, and so the walker finds objects with the cane before hitting them.
Other people find that a guide dog better suits their day-to-day travel needs. The choice is a personal one which involves careful consideration of lifestyle and travel factors. These dogs are especially trained to move around obstacles, go through doorways and stop at curbs and stairs.
- Can a person who is blind live alone?
It is a common misconception that people who are blind cannot live alone or work independently. And that is furthest from the truth! Our Rehabilitation Program staff offers training in independent living skills, including adaptive aids and assistive technology, to allow people to readjust their living and working skills to maximize their independence.
- How do people who are blind identify their clothes?
Most articles of clothing have at least one distinct way of identifying them by touch such as buttons or snaps, bows or ties, the feel of particular fabric or texture. Frequently, articles of clothing may be designed very similar, or share the same texture, such as men’s ties. For these occasions, some who are blind prefer to mark their clothes by using a Braille label or safety pin in order to tell them apart. In today’s world with the latest assistive technology there are talking color recognition devices available.
- How do people who are blind shop for groceries?
Many grocery items can be identified by touch, for example fruits or vegetables. Other products such as cereal boxes, canned vegetables, bottles of milk, and ice cream containers may be more difficult to identify by type or brand name. Many prefer to shop with a friend, or store employee, who will assist them with their purchases. Some (especially if they are buying a lot of things) will make a printed list for someone else to read, and use a Braille list for themselves. Incorporating assistive technology with Internet shopping also allows for independent shopping. There are also voice recognition devices available.
- How does a person who is blind identify money?
The most common way to differentiate paper money is to fold the bills in different ways. Each person will have his or her own method of folding them, there is no common standard. When they receive money back from making a purchase they may ask which bill is which and then fold it. There are now bill recognition devices and apps available.
- How do people who are blind cook?
People who are blind can use the same large and small kitchen appliances and tools as people who are sighted. Some prefer to use Braille, or a special marking adhesive, to put dots on specific stove or oven temperature dials. It is easier to use measuring tools that stack with different multiple-cup measurements rather than ones with lines drawn on them. They can tell by the smell, sound, temperature, time of cooking, texture, and consistency how their foods are cooking. Today there are talking microwaves. Available are special knives, etc. to insure safety.
- How does a person who is blind tell the time?
There are watches specifically designed to open so a blind person can feel where the hands are and the Braille dots at the different hour points. There are also talking watches that speak the time and have an alarm built in. For people who have some vision there are also clocks and watches with large print faces.
- How do I interact with someone who is blind?
If you walk with them, offer them your arm or shoulder depending on the height differential. The motion of your body will tell them what to do.
If you direct them, give directions as clearly as possible.
If you seat them, put their hand on the back of the chair. They will be able to seat themselves easily.
If you live or work with them, never leave a door open and keep corridors clear of clutter. Tell them if furniture has been moved.
If you’re talking remember that people who are only blind can hear as well as you. Always speak directly to them, not through their companion.
If they have a dog, remember the dog is a working dog, not a pet. Never pet or offer the guide dog food unless you have asked for permission from the dog’s owner.
When talking to a person who is blind, don’t feel afraid to use words such as “see” or “saw.” People with blindness use the same language to describe things such as “watching TV.”