Living with blindness and visual impairment

Living with blindness and visual impairment Dealing with a diagnosis of visual impairment for yourself or someone you care about can be emotional. You're bound to have questions about the future, how you'll manage, and what will be possible.

There can be challenges to daily life with vision impairment, especially if it's severe. But there is lots of support and help to live independently with a good quality of life, enjoying the things that make you happy.

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Living independently with blindness and visual impairment

Many eye diseases that cause vision loss progress gradually. Treatments such as prescription glasses or contact lenses, surgery, or medicine may help slow or alleviate symptoms at first.

If you are partially sighted, you should carry on getting routine eye care, such as regular eye tests to check for any further changes to your sight. This will also ensure any new eye conditions are diagnosed and help monitor your general health. NHS eye tests are free for people registered as sight impaired.

For children growing up with vision problems or sight loss, having the right support from the start will make a huge difference to their independence and wellbeing. Our 'My Time to Play' service supports young children in developing their skills by learning through play with specially adapted activities.

At school, education support can help children who are visually impaired. It will ensure the curriculum is adjusted appropriately and help them develop the skills they'll need to live confident, independent lives. Find out more about the many ways we help children with visual impairment and their families.

Adjusting to life with a significant visual impairment can take time for adults. It's normal to worry about losing your sight. When you're ready, talking to other people going through similar experiences can help, especially hearing from those who've already adapted to living independently with a visual impairment. We offer lots of advice and support that can help you adjust.

Our helpline, Guide Line, can put you in touch with local support groups. You can also search the Visionary website to find support from local organisations.

Managing at home with blindness and visual impairment

Your eye care team should refer you for help to manage at home. Many adaptations and adjustments can make life at home easier and safer. These include equipment, skills and tactics, and technology around the house.

  • Your ophthalmologist can refer you to a specialist low-vision clinic. A low vision assessment explores what useful vision you have and the aids that will be most helpful for you.
  • Social services can assess the support you need for living independently at home. This could include help with cooking, cleaning, staying safe at home, and getting around outside.
  • You may get help from a vision rehabilitation specialist. They can help you learn or re-learn the skills you need to cope with the practicalities of daily life with sight loss.
  • There are many kinds of assistive technology and kit to help with daily living, from relatively simple tools like a liquid level indicator to stop you from overfilling your mug to more advanced technologies such as computer screen reading software, voice recognition technology, e-readers, and accessibility features and apps on smartphones.
  • We have many techniques that can help you, including independent living skills at home and for personal care.
  • Braille uses a combination of raised dots to depict the alphabet and numbers, allowing you to read with your fingers. Find out more about learning braille, both for adults and children.
  • Our Guide Line can help you find services and support tailored to you. 

Getting around with a visual impairment

You may feel nervous about getting around with a visual impairment. That's natural; no one wants to miss out on spending time with friends or the activities they enjoy.

Moving about can be more challenging at home, and you may need to learn some new skills and tactics. It can take a while to learn these, but your confidence will grow in time.

Some of the techniques that could help you include:

Sometimes you can have an eye condition but still meet the DVLA's minimum standard for driving by wearing prescription glasses, for example. However, this is unlikely if you are sight impaired or severely sight impaired. If you've been used to driving, this can be hard to come to terms with.

It's helpful to know the transport options near you – buses, trains, or taxis. If you are registered as sight impaired, you can get help with concessions such as the Disabled Person's Railcard and discounts for bus travel.

Can you work with blindness and vision loss?

You can work with a sight impairment with the help of some adjustments and support. Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments that meet your needs.

There may be practical things that will help, including:

  • Screen reader software, voice recognition programmes, apps and accessibility features on digital devices
  • Brighter lighting
  • Visuals aids such as magnifiers

The Access to Work scheme also gives grants for equipment or services above and beyond the adjustments your employer should make. These can be used in many ways, for example, for help getting to and from work if you can't use public transport, to pay for a support worker at work, for specialist equipment, and more.

Having a sight impairment can make it harder to find work. It's important to know your rights and feel confident talking to prospective employers, not just about your skills and capabilities but also your support needs.

We can help you explore and learn new ways to get around safely, such as using a white cane, having a sighted guide, or getting a Guide Dog. Contact us for support.

Get in touch

You can contact us to find out about services and support tailored to your individual needs.

Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 28/07/2022

Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.

For more support...

Information to help you continue developing your independence and ways to enhance your day-to-day life skills.

Find out how technology can help you live independently with sight loss, from specialist assistive technology to apps and Apple accessibility features.

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  • Living with blindness and visual impairment