What is Visual Impairment?
The term visual impairment refers to a person who is blind or partially sighted. It does not include people who are short-sighted (myopia) or long-sighted (hyperopia).
A person with a visual impairment sees much less or may see nothing at all. Different eye conditions create different difficulties, but very few people are actually totally blind.
Some people will have a perception of light only, others have a loss of vision in the centre of their eye. Some may have no side or peripheral vision, whilst others may see everything as a blur. They might be able to read large print and identify shapes and colors, but they are not able to drive.
An extensive list of visual impairments is eligible under DARE (The Disability Access Route to Education):
Aniridia, Best’s disease, Charles Bonnet syndrome, Coat’s disease, Coloboma Congenital cataracts, Corneal dystrophies (including Keratoconus), Corneal transplantation, Diabetes related eye conditions, Hemianopsia, Glaucoma, High degree myopia, Macular Hole, Nystagmus, Retinitis pigmentosa, Retinal vessel occlusion, Retinopathy of prematurity, Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, Stickler Syndrome, Thyroid eye disease, Uveitis, Lawrence Moon Biedel Syndrome, Alstrom Syndrome).
IMPACT ON LEARNING SKILLS & DEVELOPMENT
The following difficulties may present for students who are visually impaired:
- Seeing print, presentations and blackboards;
- Following lectures with a heavy emphasis on visual aids (i.e. diagrams, tables, pictures and overheads);
- May have slower speed of reading, or difficulty reading for long periods.
- A slower speed of work when using magnification or specialist software
- Seeing things in the distance
- Seeing things up close
- Problems with orientation and mobility (e.g with laboratories, field trips)
- Changes to the timetable or room changes can be problematic if the student is not informed.
- May have adjustment problems if diagnosed recently (both practical and emotional).
- Use a multisensory approach to study and learning
- Request learning and course material in accessible formats
- Request class reading lists in advance to facilitate early reading and study planning
- Request assignment topics to be provided early where possible
- Get clarification of the instructions for exams (timing, structure etc) in advance
- Request advance warning of any changes to the normal routine
- Use assistive technology devices where possible
At Primary Education Level:
Visiting Teacher Service - If your child has special educational needs resulting from visual impairment, you can access the Visiting Teacher Service of the Department of Education and Skills from the time your child is two years old. This service provides teaching and support to parents and schools.
The visiting teacher will travel to meet you and your child, and other professionals who are involved with your child. Parents may refer their child to the Service, or referral can be made through an eye clinic or the National Council for the Blind.
Each visiting teacher is responsible for a particular region and is allocated a caseload of pupils. The visiting teacher will continue to provide guidance and support for your child throughout their education, up to and including third level. Assistive technology is an example of the supports that the visiting teacher can provide, where necessary.
Public libraries - libraries are provided all over the country by the various local authorities. Many of these have special large-type books and books on audiotape suitable for people with impaired vision. Some areas have a
mobile library service. For further details, contact your local library.
A Braille lending library is operated by the National Council for the Blind. It also operates an audiotape library on four-track cassettes for which a special tape recorder can be issued free of charge.
At Secondary Education Level
A student who has been receiving special education support or resources while in Primary School is eligible for continuation of support at secondary level, once they continue to have a special educational need.
The same general provisions he/she received in primary school apply at Secondary Level.
At Third Level and Further Education
Blind/Visual impairment is one of the disabilities covered under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) system.
Asperger Syndrome is one of the specific learning difficulties covered under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) system.
DARE - Disability Access Route to Education - School leavers who are Blind /Vision Impaired and who are under 23 years old (at 1st January of the application year) can apply for a college place through DARE:
Applicants complete the CAO application by 17.15pm on 1st February. CAO opens for applications on 5th November at 12.00 noon. See www.cao.ie
By 1st March, applicants must answer YES to Question 1 ('Do you wish to be considered for DARE?') on Section A of the Supplementary Information Form (the SIF is a part of your CAO application).
Applicants who are Blind Vision Impaired are required to provide:
Evidence of their disability (Evidence of Disability Form 2016 OR Existing report from an Opthalmologist or Opthalmic Surgeon, (No time limit applies to the report) AND
Educational Impact Statement - must be completed by the applicant and your School Principal, Teacher or Guidance Counsellor and returned to the CAO by 17.15pm on 1st April.
Full details of the DARE screening criteria for Blind/Visually impaired applicants are available here.
|Research findings from AHEAD released in 2015 show that, of the total disabled student population (9,694) at Third Level 2013/14 represented in the research, 232 (2.4%) are Blind / Visually Impaired. The full report is available here.
Common Educational Supports - a range of common educational supports are in place at Third Level for students with disabilities. These include:
- Priority registration
- Reader service
- Use of audio-tape to record lectures and tutorials
- Assistive technology
- Materials in alternative formats
- Word-processing facilities
- Photocopying Facilities
- Copies of lecturer's notes and/or overheads
- Time extension on out-of-lecture assignments
- Special Library Arrangements
- Counselling and Medical Services
- Study skills courses
- Examination provisions
These and other supports available are outlined in detail in our 'Third Level Supports' area.
VAT Refunds - Repayment of VAT paid can be claimed on the purchase or importation of certain special aids and appliances, including parts and accessories, i.e. assistive technology, braille books, braille writing equipment, braille converters, etc. Applications are made using Form VAT 61A.
Tax Back on Private Assessment Cost - It is possible to claim tax back on part of the cost of a Private Assessment using the MED 1 form available from the Revenue Commissioners.
In the Workplace
Many organisations now make public claims to be an "equal opportunities employer". This suggests the existence of an equal opportunities policy (EOP), which is a policy statement adopted by the organisation declaring an intent not to discriminate and, further, to promote equality by taking steps to aid disadvantaged groups. Such employers are in effect promising to avoid discrimination on grounds of sex or marital status, and may also make such a commitment in relation to people with a disability and racial and ethnic minorities.
Workplace Equipment Adaptation Grant (WEAG)
If you are a person with a disability who has been offered employment or are in employment, and require a more accessible workplace or adapted equipment to do your job, you or your employer may be able to get a grant towards the costs of adapting premises or equipment. Details of WEAG grants available and how to apply are available here.
Impact on Career Choice
Skills for workplace success fall into two main categories: hard skills and and soft skills. Hard skills are job-specific and they vary, depending upon the industry or field in which you want to work. For example, a graphic artist must have the computer skills that go with that job.
Soft skills are the personal characteristics that go with a variety of jobs - they include social skills, problem solving, communication, time management, and organisation. For example, a person who prefers to work alone might find a research job particularly appealing. Explore Career Skills in more detail here.
Computers and technology have opened a wide range of careers up to the blind or visually impaired person. Access to the ability to change the text size on the screen and read text out loud is a major advancement.
People who are blind or visually impaired can perform almost any job out there: Accountant, Artist, Computer programmer, Customer service representative, Despatch clerk, Food services, Factory worker, Financial analyst, Lawyer, Legal secretary, Teacher, Salesperson and many more.
- Jobs where there is a professional emphasis on commincation skills are a great option. Areas such as Telemarketing and Customer Service are ideal choices. In telemarketing, workers often have a script that they present and are given scripted arguments to help offset a customer's objections. Workers can memorize the script or use a large-text program to allow you to see it on the computer screen. This also works for call center customer-service jobs, such as those where you assist customers who are placing product orders. Workers are required to become familiar with the products and to know how to find them in the company's online system, butassistive technology now makes that possible
- For those who enjoy writing, there are many options. In addition to freelance journalism, you can write for newspapers or magazines - in journalism today, interviews are typically conducted over the phone or by email, or with access to a good public transport system you can make your way to outside interviews. Radio work, including research or presenting. Working for advertising companies, or marketing firms, or writing scripts for commercials are also good options.
- Although becoming an accountant or a lawyer requires the ability to research taxation law or previous court judgments, assistive technology can now help with the donkey work - page scanners that speak the words on typed pages can help you dig through hard-copy books and reports. Many of the necessary books and reports are also available in Braille, if the particular impairment requires it.
- Being blind or visually impaired doesn't confine you to a desk job. Teaching is another option. Although it is usually easier with older students, as primary school includes arts and crafts and an abiltiy to read imperfect, young handwriting. With older students, you can request homework to be submitted electronically and use presentation software and word processing software to create lesson plans and worksheets. When you need the reading assistance of another person, yo can use student assistants to help. Teaching at a school for the blind, or teaching Blind students in mainstream school are also opportunities. Read about Orla O'Sullivan, a Deaf-Blind Music Teacher from Cork, who in 2012, won a Hiddeen Heroes Award for her unique teaching work.
- The manufacturing sector, where manual and skilled labouring workers are required. For example, warehousing, where manual but skilled labour is needed to unload trucks and distribute resources and raw materials to the production line process. Or Product Assembly, which might require limited vision but can often be completed mostly by feel.
- Vision does not have a role to play any career within the mental health field of medicine. Counselling, Psochoanalysis or Psychiatry for example, can provide pathways to a productive, professional career.
- Occupational therapy, Physical therapy, Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy are also areas where blind and partially sighted people have made careers.
- Professionals with little or no vision can participate in a vast number of projects as Research Scientists. Assistive technology can be used to solve complex mathematical problems and graph findings, visually impaired researchers can work in most laboratories, universities and pharmaceutical companies. Blind researchers can build careers at manufacturers that create accessibility tools and medical equipment for blind users, serving as developers and testers. After earning a doctorate degree in one of the health sciences, medical scientists with low vision can participate in any program that is not visually dependent.
- The arts and entertainment field offers lots of career opportunities -
Famous People who are Blind/Visually Impaired
Writer and Advocate Helen Keller; Singer and Composer, Ray Charles and Musician, Stevie Wonder.