Believing is Seeing: 5 Things You May Not Know About Vision Impairment

in Overall Health by

Many people know that Helen Keller was the first blind-deaf person to graduate from college. The feat was nearly unheard of by a woman, let alone a disabled woman, when she obtained her diploma from Radcliffe College in 1904. Many people do not know that Anne Sullivan, Ms. Keller’s childhood teacher, was visually impaired herself. Ms. Sullivan was almost totally blind at age 8, but she later regained some of her sight.

Ms. Sullivan’s story underscores the need for people to sponsor a child whenever possible, because early intervention can truly make a lifetime of difference, especially when it comes to visual impairment.

Blindness is Preventable

The World Health Organization believes that over half of childhood blindness is either treatable or entirely preventable. Furthermore, according to the agency, 90 percent of childhood blindness occurs in developing countries, where children either do not have access to needed care or such caregivers are simply not available.

Items as simple as aggressive glaucoma screening and proper nutrition are sufficient to prevent many blindness cases. Vitamin A deficiencies and cataracts are responsible for many other cases.

The Relationship Between Blindness and Sleep Issues

Perhaps not surprisingly, a majority of blind Americans suffer from acute sleep-wake disorder, a condition which disrupts the person’s circadian rhythm to the point that sleeplessness, somnambulism (sleepwalking), and narcolepsy (falling asleep during the day) are all very common.

Furthermore, when many visually-impaired people dream, they experience not only sights but also sounds, tastes, and smells. Unfortunately, this intensity extends to nightmares as well, in terms of both frequency and intensity. This condition may contribute to the sleep-wake disorder, pushing the blind person into a downwards spiral of sleeplessness and fatigue.

Different Degrees of Blindness

Most people know that “blindness” is an umbrella term that is not necessarily synonymous with “unable to see,” but many people are surprised at the extent of this diversity.

A person can be legally blind and still be able to discern shapes and colors while retaining light sensitivity. In fact, fewer than 15 percent of visually-impaired people have no sight at all, and fewer than 2 percent even use the trademark white cane for navigation.

Blindness Doesn’t Automatically Mean Sensory Enhancement

For years, many people believed that visual impairment had a neutral overall effect, because such victims acquired naturally-enhanced senses of touch, smell, hearing, and/or taste to compensate for the loss.

Researchers have thoroughly debunked that myth, but like many others, there is some truth in the myth. Blind people, or any other people for that matter, can enhance their non-sight senses through diligent practice and by devoting more of their mental energy to such tasks.

Blind People Are Better Lovers?

Nearly two-thirds of visually-impaired people are married or coupled, and fewer than 20 percent are divorced. There is probably a joke or a snarky comment in there somewhere, but I cannot think of what it might be.

The bottom line is that while blindness is in no way a benefit, it is not nearly as disabling as some people believe it is. Moreover, it is one of the most preventable of all disabilities.