Visual Impairment: Know Your Rights
According to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) nearly two million people in the UK are blind or partially sighted. Visual impairment can affect people’s reading, driving, their ability to work and their mobility. The causes of visual impairment are many. For example, it could be due to an eye condition developed over time such as Macular Degeneration or Glaucoma, caused by diabetes or even as the result of an accident.
Coping with Visual ImpairmentWhatever your personal circumstances, losing some or all of your sight is very distressing and has a big effect on your life. If you find that your vision is impaired you will need to make adjustments to your lifestyle and should try to seek help as soon as you can.
Should I Register as Partially Sighted or Blind?Registering your visual impairment is not compulsory, but it can become useful if you try to apply for benefits or concessions. For example, you will be entitled to claim a Disability Living Allowance, a disabled persons’ railcard and even money off your television licence.
In order to register your visual impairment you’ll need to complete a Certificate of Visual Impairment form, which must be signed by your eye specialist (known as an opthalmologist). A copy of the form will be sent to you and your doctor and you will be placed on the Visibility Impaired register.
Depending on the degree of visual impairment, your specialist will determine whether you are registered as 'sight impaired/partially sighted' or as 'severely sight impaired/blind'.
How Will I Cope at Work?If your sight becomes impaired it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will not be able to continue with your job. Most employees are sympathetic to such medical issues and there are several ways that they can help, including providing specialist visual equipment such as screen reading software, screen magnifiers and voice recognition software. You may also be able to get support with your travel to and from work.
The Government has launched a scheme known as ‘Access to Work’ that is designed to provide practical support and advice for employees whose work circumstances have changed dramatically.
Will I be Entitled to Benefits?Yes you will. There are a number of benefits and welfare schemes made available to people who are visually impaired. These include Disability Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Pension Credits, Tax Credits, Housing Benefit & Council Tax Benefits and even free prescriptions.
I am Suffering from Discrimination – What can I do?If you feel that you are being discriminated against, either at work or in your neighbourhood, because of your visual impairment you do not have to suffer alone. You may be able to take legal action under the Disability Discrimination Act. If you feel that you are suffering from discrimination contact your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau who should be able to give you further information on filing an official complaint.
Visual impairment is an intensely personal and potentially traumatic experience. It is therefore important to remember that you are not alone. There are many other people who have experienced what you are going through and there are several organisations dedicated to providing help, reassurance and understanding. RNIB (www.rnib.org.uk) can help you find local people or groups that can help give you the support you need.