National Association for Visually Handicapped
Serving millions of Hard of Seeing people throughout the world

Psychological Effects Of Low Vision

As part of NAVH's Educational Series we are pleased to provide this article on PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF LOW VISION written by Dr. Lorraine Marchi, NAVH Founder/CEO.

The visually impaired are the second largest group of disabled people in the United States. Despite this fact, for the most part, the public--both lay and professional--is unaware of the myriad problems faced by those who have reduced vision.

One of the most neglected and misunderstood groups of the disabled suffer from visual impairment, but are not totally blind. Until recently the needs of those who are "A Little Bit Blind" were mostly ignored by the general public as well as most professionals.

Much remains to be done to enlighten the world about vision in order to remove many misconceptions. It is mainly through this educational approach that those who live with limited vision are able to rise above stigmas still associated with a disability, which is so little understood, because it is not obvious. Although significant strides have been made, the great majority of people suffering from vision loss do not know where help and understanding may be found. The many opportunities available through National Association for Visually Handicapped (NAVH) - the only U.S. health agency solely devoted to the partially seeing - will be fully appreciated when it is universally recognized that the "Hard of Seeing" can benefit from low vision services offering hope, dignity, and independence.

Furthermore, it is important to note that NAVH does not consider anyone blind who has useable vision, and our experience has proven that those with residual vision can, with proper motivation, continue to lead independent lives. For the child born with visual impairment, or for the young who acquire problems at an early age, there is practically no profession one cannot achieve. Today we find visually impaired physicians, nurses, social workers, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals. For the older person who experiences vision loss in later life, NAVH fosters the principle of "forgetting what was and working with what is."

Problems arise from lack of motivation, coupled with old myths. It is disheartening to be told that it is dangerous to read in dim light (when brighter light is often uncomfortable) or that "you must save your sight." In fact, the more a visually limited person uses remaining vision, the better that person will be able to see. Indeed, our experience has shown that "if you don't use it, you will lose it." Because the eye acts as a camera, and it is the brain which actually "sees," without consistent use, one can literally "forget" how to use one's vision and become functionally blind.

Consequently, visually impaired people, as well as the general public, must be alerted to the fact that there is no such thing as "eye strain," which gives the impression that vision will be permanently damaged with use. It is imperative the partially seeing recognize this, because with practice and use, visual acuity may be enhanced.

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