Happiness of children with a vision impairment has 'significantly decreased' over past decade

Our survey of parents and guardians say children living with a vision impairment today are significantly less confident, independent and happy.


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Our research

In depth research worryingly shows that the wellbeing of children with a vision impairment has decreased considerably over time. We carried out the same research 12 years ago, allowing us to make direct comparisons.

Key findings include:

  • 28 per cent thought their child was not really or not at all happy compared to four per cent of parents and guardians saying their child was not happy in 2008
  • 56 per cent felt that their child was not independent compared to 36 per cent in 2008
  • 40 per cent felt that their child lacked confidence compared to 30 per cent saying their child was not confident in 2008
  • 80 per cent say sight loss makes it difficult to form friendships

Our new research aims to increase the understanding of children with a vision impairment across the UK and their families and looks at a range of areas including pathways for support, parent and guardian wellbeing and child development.

63 per cent of parents and guardians surveyed agreed that the availability of support and information is extremely important for improving their child’s quality of life. 

Mobility training and habilitation

Mobility training was identified as another key factor – 36 per cent of parents and guardians felt that their mobility and independence was worse than expected for their age and more than a third of children with a vision impairment had not had any mobility training. Over three quarters (77 per cent) of those surveyed agreed they would like more training to help their child.

Habilitation training uses mobility, orientation and independence training to teach key life skills that other children learn through sight, and help children and young people with a vision impairment to achieve as much independence as possible.

Habilitation services are provided by charities including Guide Dogs and also by Local Authorities. Yet two thirds (66 per cent) of surveyed respondents agreed that Local Authorities do not do enough to support parents and guardians of children with a vision impairment.

We cannot afford to watch this downward trend continue. It is crucial that proper investment is given to services for children living with vision impairment.
Dr Helen Whiteside, Head of Research at Guide Dogs

Dr Helen Whiteside, Head of Research at Guide Dogs, said: “It is extremely worrying that the happiness of children living with vision impairment has fallen so significantly in the last 12 years. Parents and guardians want their children to reach their full potential by being as independent as possible and making meaningful social connections, and we know that consistent support from an early age has a huge impact on independence and in turn wellbeing.

“Habilitation is just one of the many services that Guide Dogs provides to help children living with a vision impairment and their families. However, this also needs to be prioritised by Local Authorities - we need more habilitation workers and a better referral system.

“We cannot afford to watch this downward trend continue. It is crucial that proper investment is given to services for children living with vision impairment.”

80 per cent of parents and guardians felt that their child’s vision impairment made it a little difficult, very difficult or even impossible to form friendships compared to 68 per cent in 2008. The research also showed that as children grow up (particularly those over 11 years) they become more aware of their differences and this also takes a stressful toll. This varied slightly by gender; girls are aware of being different to other girls and this impacts their self-esteem whilst boys were often more concerned about finding friends and fitting in.

It was a huge relief when we were introduced to Nell’s Guide Dogs habilitation worker, Branwen. She was so positive about what Nell could do. She gave us all a huge boost. 
Rachel Sutton, Mother of six-year-old Nell who has glaucoma and is blind

Support for families of children with a vision impairment

Rachel Sutton, Mother of six-year-old Nell who has glaucoma and is blind, said: “It’s hard to describe the worry and uncertainty that you feel when your child is born with such a severe vision impairment. Navigating the school system, local services and trying to access support groups can be really confusing and you just don’t know what to do for the best. 

It was a huge relief when we were introduced to Nell’s Guide Dogs habilitation worker Branwen. She was so positive about what Nell could do. She gave us all a huge boost. Even though Nell was young to be using a cane, Branwen really encouraged her and she’s now well on the way to being able to use it all the time. The support we received from such a young age was invaluable.”

We offer an extensive programme of family services, which consistently receives very positive feedback from parents and guardians of children living with vision impairment.