How to Help Someone with Visual Impairment

  • By:Dr. Katie Dugan

Some vision loss issues are minor and can be easily corrected with the use of corrective lenses. But there are times when vision loss progresses to the point where it is categorized as visual impairment. At this point, the treatment options are limited and a person needs to learn how to function in everyday life with limited eyesight.

If you have a friend or family member who has a visual impairment, then you likely have the desire to offer support and care. Learning about the right way to help is a great place to start, so you know how to provide assistance while respecting the person’s independence and desires at the same time.

Causes of Visual Impairment

Visual impairment doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is legally blind. There are varying levels of vision loss, which can all have an impact on daily activities. For example, certain types of vision loss take away the peripheral vision, while other conditions only affect central vision. Common causes of visual impairment include:

  • Trauma to the eyes
  • Birth defects
  • Eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, etc.
  • Genetic disorders
  • Old age

Tips if You Want to Help

The most important thing you must remember is that every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Just because someone is visually impaired, doesn’t mean that they are unable to do certain tasks for themselves. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Treat Them Like a Normal Person: Talk to the person normally and don’t make it a big deal if you are offering a helping hand.
  • Ask Permission First: Always have a conversation with the person before jumping in to do something for them.
  • Match Their Speed: When walking together, pay attention to their walking speed so you can match the tempo.
  • Obstacles in the Way: If you see an obstacle (such as curbs, stairs, etc.), then you can use verbal cues to let them know what to expect in a few steps.
  • Be Specific with Your Language: Describe objects you are handing to them or placing in their proximity. Also, make sure that you only place items where they request.
  • Don’t Pet the Dog: When a person is using a seeing-eye dog, remember that it is a service animal, and you shouldn’t pet the dog without permission.

One other way that you can help is by looking for “Low Vision Services.” This specialty in optometry provides optical aides like telescopes and magnifiers for the visually impaired. Helping your loved one have access to the right tools can be invaluable to empower them through independence at home. Our team doesn’t provide these services at our office, but we are happy to help you find the right resources nearby.

Our team is here to offer assistance with visual health. If you or a loved one needs to schedule an eye exam, we invite you to visit one of our nearby offices. Call for an appointment: Our Murrieta office at (951) 600-9226, or our Temecula office at (951) 302-1331.

Posted in: Eye Health