The 1995 census showed that 2 million people in the United States are either completely sightless or have partially impaired sight. Blind people face challenges that the sighted do not have to overcome, and are often limited in their ability to live life.
Interaction with Environment
Blind people can have difficulty interacting with their environment. Because it can become difficult to perceive where one is and to get from one place to another, movement can become restricted, leading to having little contact with the surrounding world. While other senses can be enhanced, this can be offset by a tendency toward over-protection.
Blind people are often restricted in their ability to interact socially. There can be an apprehension or awkwardness on the part of sighted people when dealing with the blind, which can lead to difficulty for the blind in developing relationships. As a result, they are often relegated to specific roles in society and are usually held to lower standards and expectations. According to Carrie Gilmer, president of Minnesota Parents of Blind Children, her 15-year-old visually impaired son Jordan has always been treated by his school with lowered expectations, despite the fact that Jordan was an honors student. At one point, school officials prohibited him from learning a nonvisual technique of woodworking.
Much of how we communicate is through the use of visual symbols. We depend on what we see to warn us of danger, to provide direction and to interact with people. The blind person is often placed in a situation of being excluded from these symbols, which in effect cuts them off from a portion of the world.
The blind have difficulty finding adequate employment. According to Independence Inc., 65 percent to 70 percent of blind people are either unemployed or underemployed, and the jobs they are able to obtain are often menial. Michelle Gittens, a blind music student and professional singer, said the worst part of being blind is the employment situation. "Not working is the biggest problem," she said. "It's dehumanizing."
The blind have to deal with a public perception that they are not capable of functioning as well in society as sighted people. Gittens said that whenever she would sit in a regular bus seat and not one intended for the handicapped, others would sometimes tell her that she did not belong there. According to the National Federation of the Blind, the visually impaired face a form of prejudice that can hold them back, and can only be eliminated through continuous efforts to educate the public.