Blindness, Low Vision, What Are the Different Forms of Visual Disability?

Blindness, Low Vision, What Are the Different Forms of Visual Disability?

A pedestrian with a visual impairment crossing the street in New York

Blindness, Low Vision, What Are the Different Forms of Visual Disability?

 

Approximately 12 million American people are affected by a visual disability and no less than 253 million people in the world. Who are they? What are their needs? How can we facilitate their social participation?

It’s referred to visual disability beneath a specific threshold of impairment. But the WHO considers that 2.2 billion people suffer from a vision disorder worldwide. Another notable fact, this figure should double by 2050. We will see in this article that visual impairment covers a wide variety of profiles and causes whose impact on daily life differs from one person to another. But there are major accessibility principles to follow to facilitate access to your services for all these communities!

Blindness, low vision, visual impairment, what is it exactly?

In humans, 80% of the information transmitted to the brain comes from the eyes. The main functions that determine the quality of the vision are:

Visual acuity,

Visual field,

Binocular vision,

Depth perception,

Color vision,

Sensitivity to light and

Contrast perception.

Visual acuity is the ability to recognize details of an object at the greatest possible distance. Using the meter as a unit of measurement, visual acuity is expressed relative to 6/6. Otherwise, using the foot, visual acuity is expressed relative to 20/20. These values indicate “normal” human eyesight. But they fluctuate over the lifetime. From the age of 45, it is common for visual acuity to be reduced in near vision. This is presbyopia, a disorder linked to the natural aging of the lens.

Visual field corresponds to the visible area in front of you when fixing straight at a point without moving. The normal visual field extends 180° horizontally and 130° vertically. Thus, all the elements that enter the visual field (movement, light, color, shape) are likely to attract the eye, even if the perception of details remains the distinctive feature of central vision. The peripheral visual field is reduced in children under 8 and the elderly. Certain eye disorders such as glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa also considerably reduce the visual field.

Binocular vision is the ability to coordinate the two eyes so that the brain makes a single image from what each eye sends it. It plays a crucial role in depth perception. A lack of alignment or coordination of the two eyes, called strabismus, can lead to loss of vision in one eye if it is not taken care of from early childhood.

Color vision is generally very good in humans, much better than in most animals. However, color vision abnormalities are common. Namely: color blindness affects 8% of the male population.

Visual impairment means that one or more of these functions are impaired.

Visual impairment, or low vision, is defined by a visual acuity between 6/60 to 6/18 or a visual field less than or equal to 20°. The visual acuity taken into account is with the best possible correction (glasses or contact lenses) and in the better eye.

Blindness is the complete absence of vision. The expression “legal blindness” means that the visual capacities of the person are insufficient to be used. People with a visual acuity of less than 20/200 (in the better eye with the best possible correction) or a visual field of less than 10° fall under the “blindness” category.

What accessibility for the visually impaired?

Like other disabilities, visual impairment takes different forms and to varying extents. Blind people resort to the use of their valid senses: hearing, touch, smell, but also the echolocation, cold drafts, temperature differences, etc. People who have low vision act a little differently in that they maximize their visual potential.

The difficulties encountered by blind or visually impaired people in public spaces concern:

Reading information,

Location and orientation in space,

The ability to cross the street safely,

The ability to detect dangers…

In order to improve access to the environment and services for people with a visual impairment, the following recommendations should be applied:

Visible and legible signage, using large print and contrasting colors,

 Accessible pedestrian signals (APS) at pedestrian crossings,

 Audio beacons to identify important points of interest,

Audio dubbing of visual information, in particular announcements in public transport,

Tactile guide paths for orientation in large spaces,

Detectable warning surfaces to alert to a danger such as stairs, public transit platforms or pedestrian crossings,

Continuous handrails, contrasting risers and stair nosings to use the stairs safely,

Tactile signs with Braille and raised print in the elevators,

Maps using high-contrasting colors, large print and Braille and raised indications,

Homogeneous and glare-free lighting,

High-contrasting colors and different floor coverings to structure the space,

Staff trained in welcoming people with visual disabilities,

Digital services that meet accessibility standards.

Several degrees of visual impairment

Because sight is a complex sense, for which many functions are involved, there are as many ways of seeing poorly as there are people with low vision.

Blindness and visual impairment according to the WHO

The WHO distinguishes in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) five categories of visual impairment numbered from I to V. This classification takes into account the visual acuity with the best possible correction in the better eye and the visual field of the person.

In the United States, there are approximately 12 million people 40 years and over who have vision impairment, including:

1 million who are blind,

3 million who have vision impairment after correction, and

8 million who have vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive error.

81% of people affected by blindness or moderate or severe visual impairment are over 50 years old.

4 forms of visual impairment

There are also four main types of visual impairment, which have varying impacts on daily life. Sometimes these forms can be combined.

Central vision loss

The central part of the retina concentrates the cells responsible for visual acuity. It allows the vision of shapes and colors, but especially details.

People with central vision impairment have difficulty reading, writing and performing precision work. Face recognition also becomes tricky. On the other hand, they retain the perception of space and movement, which generally allows them to move around without assistance.

Peripheral vision loss

In people with impaired peripheral vision, the visual field narrows. This is also known as “tunnel vision”. Central visual acuity is preserved but vision is limited to what is just around the eyes’ visual point of fixation.

This type of visual impairment is often puzzling for those around you. Indeed, people with impaired peripheral vision may be able to read the fine print of a newspaper but the next moment bump into a pole, no matter how colorful. They have no global perception of their environment and are unable to follow a moving object. This type of visual impairment is very disabling to navigate independently.

Blurry vision

This type of visual impairment is like looking through frosted glass. The luminosity diffuses and makes the contours of objects imprecise. People with blurry vision only perceive vague shapes, which makes contrast, depth and distances difficult to appreciate. The light, especially when it is bright, can become unbearable.

These people are particularly embarrassed for reading, writing and precision work. But they also have great difficulty to navigate, because it is impossible for them to assess the danger and find their way around.

Visual disorders following brain injuries

Visual disturbances caused by trauma or brain damage are varied and often associated with other disturbances such as attention, memory or behavioral problems.

In most visual disorders following brain injuries, it is not the visual function itself that is impaired, but the ability of the brain to analyze information. 

Many causes of visual disability

Visual impairment can appear at any age of life, due to a harmless birth defect, an illness or an accident.

Worldwide, more than 80% of visual impairments are preventable or curable. This means that better access to hygiene and medical care, especially in developing countries, would greatly contribute to reducing the number of blind or visually impaired people.

In Western countries, the main causes of visual impairment in the elderly are cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes.

Some genetic diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa or Leber’s optic neuropathy can appear in childhood.

Low vision or blindness are also sometimes caused by a malformation of the eyes, oxygen deprivation at birth or an accident during life. Optic nerve damage is irreversible.

In low-and middle-income countries, infectious diseases, myopia and cataracts are among the main causes of visual impairment.

In conclusion, keep in mind that visual impairment takes various forms. Not all people carrying a white cane are plunged into darkness. If you are in charge of the development of a public space or a building, keep in mind that lighting, visual contrast, detectable, tactile and sound cues are essential for the independence of blind or visually impaired people. Their number is expected to double by 2050, it is important to act now.

Find more information about accessibility for people with a visual impairment:

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

8 Clichés on Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired People

Published on February 18th, 2022

media

A blind pedestrian is walking towards a staircase

Blind people resort to the use of their valid senses: hearing, touch, smell, but also the echolocation, cold drafts, temperature differences, etc. People who have low vision act a little differently in that they maximize their visual potential.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

8 Clichés on Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired People

8 Clichés on Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired People

A builder is securing stairs installing contrasting and non-slip stair nosing

8 Clichés on Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired People

 

What do people with a visual impairment need? Why are accessibility regulations so strict regarding visual and tactile contrasts, fall prevention and signage? You’ll discover in this article a few answers to give meaning to your accessibility projects. Let’s not forget that beyond being ADA-compliant, what’s really at stake is the inclusion of people with disabilities!

1 – There are no visually impaired people in my city

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), approximately 12 million people 40 years and over in the United States have a visual impairment, including 1 million who are blind. That’s a lot of people! Actually, this could be the number of inhabitants of Chicago! This means some of them are more likely to live next to yours. 

People are considered to be visually impaired below a certain limit: a visual acuity inferior to 4/10. According to WHO, their number should double by 2050.

Other causes can also put us in a temporary state of visual impairment: loss of glasses, eye operation, blackout, blinding sunlight…

2 – Blind people can’t see at all

Indeed, completely blind people don’t have any visual perception, not even light perception. People who are profoundly visually impaired are considered to be blind as long as their visual acuity is inferior to 1/20 or their visual field is of 10°. 

The visual capabilities of some people aren’t enough to be exploited. On the whole, they have the same needs as completely blind people but their perception of light, certain shapes or colors could occasionally help them. The right visual contrast and good quality lighting will be quite useful.

So don’t be surprised if a blind person asks you to turn on the lights!

3 – Whether they’re blind or visually impaired, people with a visual impairment all have the same needs

Just like any category of people, visually impaired people are all different. Every one of them has their own abilities, experiences, assets and weaknesses.

Despite everything, there are fortunately common points. 

Whatever their level of visual impairment may be, blind and visually impaired people like tactile, detectable and audio indicators.

Those with a bit of vision left are in addition more sensitive to quality lightning, appropriate visual contrasts and an understandable signage system. 

4 – My stairs don’t need to be accessible since there’s an elevator within my venue

Unless they also have a motor impairment or they’re particularly weighed down, a visually impaired person usually prefers to take the stairs. They save time. Plus taking the stairs enables them to have a better representation of their surroundings.

For them to use them with safety, think of implementing detectable warning surfaces at the top of each flight, contrasting and non-slip stair nosing and high-contrasting risers at the top and bottom!

5 – My venue is accessible for blind people: I’ve put up Braille signs on all the doors

It’s really a good thing to have implemented this! But have you considered how a blind person would go to the door? And how would they find the Braille sign if they don’t know there’s one?

Leaving aside the fact that there aren’t many blind people who can read Braille. However, those who can will appreciate a lot to be able to confirm their destination by reading a door sign. Quite useful in large school halls, colleges or hospitals for example.

But for them and all the other visually impaired to go to these doors and find their bearings, consider accessibility issues right from the building entrance! Tactile guide paths, audio beacons, an understandable signage system with visual contrast, indoor navigation app…, all these solutions mix to provide an effective accessibility. 

6 – In the United States, there aren’t a lot of accessible pedestrian signals

According to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, accessible pedestrian signals (APS) are mandatory at newly constructed or reconstructed intersections. This means that a lot of existing intersections may not have APS. 

Indeed, they can be installed upon request along a specific route used by blind and visually impaired people, a route that leads to a school for blind people for example. 

Recently, New York City has been under the spotlight for its lack of APS. A federal judge has ordered the city to install more than 9,000 accessible pedestrian signals at intersections. They’re essential for blind and visually impaired people to cross the street safely and to fully enjoy everything the city has to offer!

7 – There’s no need to install accessible pedestrian signals at calm neighborhoods because they pose no danger

For sure, it’s best to start with very busy or complex intersections in order to prioritize the installation of APS. But for a visually impaired person, slow traffic can be as unsettling as busy traffic. 

Indeed, blind and visually impaired people rely a lot on traffic flows and their hustle and bustle to find their bearings, determine their path, locate the pedestrian crossings and know when to cross. 

When traffic is too rare, accessible pedestrian signals are essential to make up for the missing landmarks.

8 – No need to have APS, guide dogs know by themselves when to cross the street

For a start, visually impaired people don’t all have guide dogs. According to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, only 2% of blind and visually impaired people work with guide dogs. 

Moreover, guide dogs can’t read signs and they can’t interpret the WALK sign of traffic lights. It’s always their owner who orders them to cross the street after analyzing the situation (traffic noises, accessible pedestrian signals indications…).

However, guide dogs lead their owner towards the pedestrian crossing and until the other sidewalk. And they bypass obstacles.

Want to implement the appropriate solutions for blind and visually people? Check out our articles:

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Street?

Removing Traffic Lights vs Pedestrian Safety: a Guide to Inclusive Streets

Published on February 4th, 2022

media

Accessible stairs for the visually impaired with detectable warning surfaces, handrails and contrasting non-slip stair nosing

Whatever their level of visual impairment may be, blind and visually impaired people like tactile, detectable and audio indicators.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

A coffee shop with staff serving customers

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

Are you sure that your facility meets all the conditions to properly accommodate blind or visually impaired people? The standards for accessibility set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 apply to all forms of disabilities. Behind the technical constraints that are sometimes obscure and off-putting for non-specialists, regulatory obligations meet the specific needs of certain categories of users. To help you see more clearly, we have detailed in this article all the fundamental principles to know so that your public accommodations or commercial facilities offer a high-quality welcome to all visitors who are blind or have low vision.

Follow this checklist, you will then have an exhaustive vision of the improvements you can make!

What are the needs of blind or visually impaired people in a public venue in terms of accessibility?

Like any visitor, blind or visually impaired people go to public venues to benefit from the services offered there. To access the building and services, the main difficulties experienced are as follows:

Orientation: knowing in which direction to go,

Location: finding their bearings and being able to identify them,

Access to written information,

Risks of falling or bumping into obstacles.

Take a notepad and a pen, exit your facility, and walk the route from the outdoor access, putting yourself in the shoes of a blind or visually impaired person. Write down anything that could be problematic, we guide you through each step of the travel chain.

Accessible tools to prepare the trip before your visit

Do your customers or users have access to all the information about your facility before their visit? Do you have a website? Does it meet digital accessibility standards? Can you find all the information on access to your facility?

Service areas: public transport stops, location of the parking area, drop-off point,

Description of the surroundings if the main entrance is not accessible directly from the street,

Location of the reception point, description of the route to get there,

Instructions for use of the access control device, if applicable.

Are your reception staff able to provide all this information over the phone? Here’s a tip: make a summary sheet that you will leave permanently near the switchboard.

Make the outdoor walking path detectable and safe

Is the entrance to your facility directly accessible from the street? 

If not, people with blindness or vision loss may find it difficult to reach it, especially if the space is large and devoid of cues such as a parking lot for example.

The path from the access to the outdoor area to the main entrance to the building must be easily detectable and recognizable thanks to a visual and tactile contrast. We can then play on the differences in floor coverings: asphalt, exposed aggregate concrete, resin, cobblestones, lawns, etc. In the absence of natural tactile contrast, it is possible to add directional or guidance tactile paving.

Regarding safety, several points must be checked:

If there are stairways on the outdoor walking path, they should be fitted with raised warning stripes at the top of each flight, contrasting and non-slip stair nosing, but also high-contrasting risers at the top and bottom.

If the walking path crosses a lane used by vehicles, it must include a textured surface such as truncated domes upstream and downstream of the pedestrian crossing.

If glass walls are located near the pedestrian path, they must be marked with high-contrasting elements to avoid the risk of bumping into them.

If there is a step of more than 15 inches close to the walking path, this drop should be protected with a guardrail.

Keep in mind that a person with a visual impairment cannot walk upright if they do not have a guidance path to orientate themselves. The notion of “walking path” must therefore be considered in the broad sense, namely all the space accessible to pedestrians and not just a virtual strip of 36 to 56 inches wide.

Make the main entrance easy to reach and to recognize

Is the entrance to your facility recognizable by a visual contrast or a particular architectural treatment? Is it equipped with an audio beacon? Is the name of your business clearly visible?

If the walking path leading to the main entrance is well defined and clearly identifiable, you have already done a good part of the work. However, people who are blind or have low vision need to confirm their position. For those who retain visual abilities, signage in large characters, using high-contrasting colors. And for people who cannot read, an audio beacon allows them to trigger a verbal message announcing the name of the business, using their standardized remote control or their smartphone.

Make sure your access control system is accessible

Does an intercom or a call button restrict access to your facility? If so, is it usable by a blind or visually impaired person?

So that the access control systems are not an obstacle for the visually impaired, it should above all be of a contrasting color compared to its support and have keys with writing in large characters, numbers and of raised symbols. So that your blind or visually impaired visitors are aware of the presence of this device before their visit, it is important that its existence be mentioned on your communication media. As we said before, this typology of visitors is used to prepare for their trips.

Finally, be aware that intercoms with name scrolling cannot be used by blind people. It is therefore necessary to provide an alternative if necessary: ​​communicate an access code, offer a welcome at the door, the possibility of contacting a person on arrival, etc.

Make your reception easy-to-access and detectable

Is your reception desk easy to find for your visually impaired visitors?

Blind or visually impaired people rely a lot on reception and human support to find their way around a building and benefit from the services offered there. To facilitate access, your reception desk must therefore be located as close as possible to the main entrance. It should be easily identifiable by visual contrast and suitable lighting. If it is necessary to cross a large area to get there, we recommend installing a guidance path that will make it easier for everyone to orientate themselves.

We draw your attention to the use of queue management systems. It is difficult for a blind or partially sighted person to stand in a queue and know when their turn is. Note that the systems cannot be used by this audience unless the person in charge of the distribution speaks aloud the number appearing on the ticket and the same applies to the order of passage. It is therefore recommended that visually impaired people be given priority access, on the same basis as people with standing problems.

Make indoor navigation easy and safe

Is it possible for a blind or visually impaired person to move around safely in your facility? Can they easily orientate themselves there?

It is likely that a person with a visual impairment coming to your facility for the first time will need human assistance to find their way there. However, there are certain arrangements to be made.

First and foremost, indoor hallways should offer the best possible security. Thus, the lighting must be sufficiently intense and homogeneous, that it must not create shadows. Floor lighting should be avoided due to glare.

Indoor paths must be free of any obstacle. Be sure to remove overhead obstacles or, if this is not possible, to force them to be bypassed by a piece of furniture. The glass walls located along the path must have contrasting elements to avoid the risk of bumping into them.

To facilitate the orientation of visually impaired people in complex spaces, the installation of guidance paths or directional paving is recommended, possibly associated with audio beacons. The Evelity indoor navigation application tailored for all types of disabilities is also specially designed to allow visitors with disabilities to move around independently within a complex building such as an administrative center, museum, university, or hospital.

Finally, all stairs must be secured with:

Easy-grip and continuous handrails on both sides,

Detectable warning surfaces at the top of each flight,

Contrasting and non-slippery stair nosing,

Contrasting risers on the first and last step of each flight and

Adequate lighting.

If your facility has one or more elevators, for them to be usable by visually impaired people, they should have:

Visually and tactile contrasted call buttons,

Visually contrasted numbers, raised and in Braille,

A vocalization system for floor numbers and cabin movements.

Make your signage visible and readable to visually impaired people

Do the doors to rooms, bedrooms or offices in your facility have signage that can be read by blind or visually impaired people?

After crossing a hall, walking through mazes of corridors and stairs, what could be more natural than wanting to confirm your destination. Am I in front of room 212? For the visually impaired to be able to do this independently, the door signs must include the name or number of the room in large letters. These must be of a contrasting color compared to the support and be raised by 1 to 2 millimeters for tactile reading. The inscription must also be in Braille.

Similar signage must be found at the restrooms to distinguish the male toilets from the female toilets.

Specific provisions for equipment and materials accessible to the public

Can all the equipment made available to the public in your facility be used independently by a blind or visually impaired person?

ATMs, vending machines, drink machines, photocopiers…, anyone should be able to use them. To achieve this objective with visually impaired people, it is above all necessary to provide written instructions in large, contrasting characters. An operation vocalization system is also desirable for anyone unable to read.

If you have followed our journey, you now know everything there is to do to make your business accessible to blind or visually impaired people. To prioritize the work and investments that will allow you to reach your goal, we recommend that you turn to qualified accessibility professionals. Better than anyone, they will know how to support you in the implementation.

Would you like to know more about visual impairment? Dive in with:

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

The Smartphone: a Revolution for the Blind and Visually Impaired!

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

Published on September 17th, 2021

media

An audio beacon at Okeenea's entrance

To facilitate the orientation of visually impaired people in complex spaces, the installation of guidance paths or directional paving is recommended, possibly associated with audio beacons.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible...

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Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

Two people sitting face to face and chatting

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

Do you feel uncomfortable, distraught, clumsy… when you see a blind person? No need to worry, we’ve made up a quick survival guide with 6 key points to make sure everything goes well. Before all, stay natural and relaxed, simply start the conversation naturally and the rest will follow!

1. Speak first

It’s the easiest way to break the ice. If you speak first, the visually impaired person will be able to locate where you are thanks to the sound of your voice and will know who to speak to. Say hi to them as soon as they arrive and ask them if they need anything.

2. Introduce yourself

Even if you’re clearly speaking to them and that you’re wearing a name tag or a uniform, a blind or visually impaired person will struggle to spontaneously know if you’re a staff member or not. Simply say who you are so that they’ll know what they can ask from you.

If you’ve met them before, they may spontaneously recognize you with the sound of your voice. But recognizing a voice isn’t as reliable as recognizing someone’s facial features. The context, the intonation, and some circumstances like a cold can make your voice unrecognizable. So don’t hesitate to say your name, you’ll save time!

3. Make sure the person you’re talking to has understood you’re speaking to them

If several people are present in the same place at the same time, like in a line for example, it’s difficult for those who can’t see or see poorly to know when someone is speaking to them.

When a visually impaired person enters a room, call them by their name if you know it. Or you can try by getting closer to them and speaking facing them, calling their Sir or Madam. And if that still isn’t enough, get their attention by slightly touching their arm. If you’re not standing by them, you can ask their neighbor to do it.

4. Describe the situation

If you’re not available right now, say it. The visually impaired person will know their presence has been noticed and that they just need to wait patiently.

For example: “I’ll be right with you after finishing to take care of the three people who have been waiting”, “I’m on the phone, I’ll be right with you as soon as I’m finished”. 

5. Offer to help but don’t impose it

Nothing is more unbearable for a visually impaired person than being grabbed by the arm by a person they haven’t seen coming, being led to an unknown destination without being spoken to at any given moment. Unfortunately, this type of situation happens all the time and yet, the intentions of the unknown person are generally laudable.

The missing step can be summed up in one sentence: “Hi, can I help you?”

The person you’re talking to will be free to accept or not, according to the situation and their autonomy level. Then, they’ll tell you what they need. They’re the ones who can best tell! Just listen to them!

6. Be specific

Avoid giving indications that depend on sight: “over here”, “no, not there”, “here”…

Use landmarks: right, left, in front of, behind, and don’t hesitate to describe situations.

For example: “You’re facing a staircase going down”, “You should walk around the chair to come up to me”, “There’s a pole in front of you, you can get around it on your right”. 

If you want to know more about how to best assist people with disabilities, you can follow the course At Your Service: Welcoming Customers with Disabilities provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You’ll be able to better understand the needs of people with disabilities.

Be more familiar with blind and visually impaired people with these articles:

8 Clichés About Blind People

The Smartphone: a Revolution for the Blind and Visually Impaired!

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

media

A white arrow pointing left on a green wall

Avoid giving indications that depend on sight: “over here”, “no, not there”, “here”…

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

People with invisible disabilities partying

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! 

Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible disabilities” is an unnoticed disability at first glance, that is to say when the person in question hasn’t made their difficulties known. What are the types of invisible disabilities? How can you identify them? What are the best practices to best welcome people with invisible disabilities at public venues? Follow the guide, we’ll explain everything!

Several types of invisible disabilities

Although we usually arrange them in main categories, there are as many disabilities as people with disabilities. The same holds true for invisible disabilities! They include most sensory disabilities (visual and hearing impairments), most of the mental and psychological impairments, cognitive disabilities and a lot of chronic diseases generating incapabilities.

In concrete terms, the following situations are part of invisible disabilities:

Hearing impairment,

Visual impairment,

Certain forms of autism,

Bipolar disorders,

Alzheimer’s disease,

People with a heart condition,

Dyslexia,

People with post-traumatic-disorders (war veterans or terrorist attack survivors), etc.

A lot of elderly people have an invisible disability, some may even have several.

Illiteracy is also a cause of invisible disability, even though it’s rarely acknowledged as such by the administration. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of adults between 16 and 74 years old lack proficiency in literacy. That represents around 130 million people who can read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. Illiteracy has direct consequences on people’s quality of life and their integration into society.

Invisible disabilities creates multiple difficulties

The consequences of having an invisible disability vary according to the type of disability and its severity. Having disabilities can lead to being easily tired, having attention deficit disorders, difficulties to take initiatives or to put up a strategy, memory disorders.

Many people with invisible disabilities prefer not to disclose their disabilities. Some even feel ashamed because of them. This is due to the fact that being different is often regarded as a problem by relatives or work relations. Sometimes invisible disabilities can have an impact on our intimacy. For example, those with Crohn’s disease have to use the bathroom very often. Endometriosis also has a strong impact on the everyday lives of women with it. More than 6 million women have endometriosis in the U.S.

Contrary to people whose disabilities are obvious, people with invisible disabilities are often suspected to lie or to be lazy. They’re more likely to be misunderstood, laughed at or insulted. Their specific needs are rarely taken into account. However, many of them are legitimately entitled to use a parking space for people with reduced mobility (PRM), to ask for a seat at public transportation or to have priority in a line.

A lot of invisible disabilities have variable manifestations according to the situation, the events, the fatigue people feel or their mood. These fluctuations increase how misunderstood people with invisible disabilities may be by their relatives. Consequently, they have to make more of an effort to adapt which makes them much more tired. 

How can you best welcome people with invisible disabilities?

The tricky part is that by definition invisible disabilities aren’t obvious. In order to provide people with invisible disabilities with the best possible welcome, it’s important you build a climate of trust so that your visitors can freely express their specific needs. To do that, you can directly ask them: “Do you need anything in particular?”. This can be a seat to wait, some help to fill up a document, a handwritten note with the main directions to follow to get to a place or any other action that will enable them to better have access to your services.

A good thing to set up: make sure to systematically provide a field in all your subscription forms for people to express their specific needs.

And also make sure not to judge particular demands and to leave behind any negative prejudices you may have. As we said earlier, people with invisible disabilities mostly suffer from being accused of lying or taking advantage. Keep a positive and respectful attitude in all circumstances! For any situation, you can use our 7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities.

To conclude, invisible disabilities are far from being uncommon. Always keep in mind that the person you’re talking to may have specific needs you may not have thought of at first. By remaining open-minded and by listening to them without judging, you give them the opportunity to express themselves. Thus you’re more likely to meet their needs and to make them have access to the services your venue provides more easily!

Published on August 6th, 2021

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People with invisible disabilities sitting on a bench at the beach

Having disabilities can lead to being easily tired, having attention deficit disorders, difficulties to take initiatives or to put up a strategy, memory disorders.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

People celebrating with confettis

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

July celebrates Disability Pride Month! A month to support and raise awareness on disability. It gives people with disabilities an opportunity to be seen and heard. Obviously, everybody has their own experiences but this type of celebration enables them to have a sense of community and to assert their rightful place in society.

Inclusion isn’t something trendy to please millennials but is meant to stay! Thanks to initiatives like Disability Pride Month, people with disabilities can gain more visibility and be more included in society. 

Let’s see what it entails exactly and why it’s so important!

What is Disability Pride Month?

It all started when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990 under George H.W Bush’s presidency. Its goal is to prevent discrimination based on disability. Thanks to this law, accessibility barriers are being removed at public venues such as museums or shopping malls and also public transportation like subways or airports. The law even requires web accessibility. Plus it also advocates employment for people with disabilities. 

Riding the wave of enhancing visibility for people with disabilities, the city of Boston held the first Disability Pride Day in 1990. A lot of cities followed their lead like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Antonio and New York City but the event wasn’t nationally recognized.

We had to wait for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to establish July as Disability Pride Month in 2015. The year marked the ADA’s 25th anniversary so it was the perfect way to honor it! “By designating July as Disability Pride Month, we are celebrating and commending the fierce advocacy of those who have fought for equal rights for decades and reaffirming our strong commitment to making New York City the most accessible city in the world”, said Mayor de Blasio.

Advocating for disability rights is an everyday battle but having a whole month dedicated to them is in itself a victory. The event fosters accessibility and inclusion! After all, there are 1 billion people with disabilities in the world. But everybody’s concerned: we are all getting older and may face reduced mobility or disease generating incapacities  in the future. And most of all, as human beings living in this world and cohabitating, shouldn’t we be more comprehensive and empathetic towards the issues some (a lot) of us may face?  

Disability Pride Month consists in various activities: parades in a few cities, educational and artistic events and smaller community celebrations. But it takes on its full meaning when it starts a conversation through countless articles on the events, testimonies of disability rights activists and people with disabilities on social media with #DisabilityPrideMonth. That’s what truly matters!

Why is it important to talk about disability?

The Disability Pride Month is spreading on all social media platforms. Meaning that people with disabilities take charge and start a conversation on their disabilities and their everyday lives issues. And what’s better than a person having a disability to explain what it entails, how they’ve accepted it and own it? People with disabilities may feel rejected or ashamed not to be able as others. By making their voices heard, they embrace their disabilities as a positive force. The National Council on Independent Living even designed a Disability Pride Toolkit and Resource Guide.

Such visibility during a whole month creates bridges among all communities: people from all walks of life and different profiles can share their own experiences. This enables to raise disability awareness: people who aren’t directly concerned by disability but who would like to know more. Plus at some point, we all can encounter a person with disabilities at work or in the streets. It can be very helpful to know the issues they face! 

Shedding some light on disability with such an initiative enables to enforce positive takes on people with disabilities: they adapt, they persevere, they show optimism, they’re resourceful, resilient…

How can you be involved?

Maybe at some point, you’ve said “there are no people with disabilities living in my city” to which we’d tell you: “look again”. Did you know that 80% of disabilities are invisible? This concerns hearing impaired people, people on the autism spectrum, people with chronic diseases generating incapacities like Crohn’s disease, people with PTSD… This means you’ve probably already encountered a person with a disability without necessarily being aware of it. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable and awkward as you may not know how to behave around them. But the most important thing to know is that you just have to treat people with disabilities as equals. We’ve come up with 7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities that work every time! 

Next time you meet someone with a disability, just say hi and talk to them. Just be yourself and take the time to know them as individuals. You’ll see that you’ll gradually remove stigmas you may have first had on people with disabilities. Starting a conversation is simple but this can make a difference.

And if you want to do more, you can always look up and get more information on disability whether by reading on the subject or by checking out disabled activists and community leaders. It takes all of us to create an accessible and inclusive world!

We hope that this article on Disability Pride Month will help you start a conversation! Whether with your friends and relatives, your employees or your neighbors! And not only in July. Removing accessibility barriers is an everyday mission!

Published on July 30th, 2021

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A wheelchair user is pushed by a friend at the beach

Such visibility during a whole month creates bridges among all communities […] This enables to raise disability awareness.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.