There are nearly 6 million preschool and school-aged children who are blind or have low vision. Eighty percent of these children live in developing countries where less than one out of every 10 currently has access to education. Among the causes for this inequity are a severe shortage of trained teachers and appropriate materials; lack of early identification, referral and intervention; lack of awareness of rights to education by parents and communities; and limited public policy and advocacy.
Rehabilitation and Training
Of the approximately 160 million individuals who are blind or have low vision worldwide, just 10 percent have access to rehabilitation services—a wide range of clinical therapy and non-clinical training to provide blind or low vision persons with the skills and tools to maintain a safe, active and independent lifestyle. The unemployment rate of this group ranges from 75-90 percent; people who are visually impaired are five times more likely to be unemployed than the general public. This high rate of unemployment is the result of factors such as potential employers’ misperceptions, and in developing countries, severe lack of training and technological resources. Excluded from the workplace and unable to be productive citizens, people who are visually impaired become discouraged and experience social and economic isolation.
The lack of training, rehabilitation and education of the blind and visually impaired denies millions of people a chance to engage with others, participate as productive workers and feel that they are valuable members of society. If given the tools and support to receive education and gain useful skills, blind or low vision people could live more fully realize their potential and contribute to society—improving both their lives as well as their communities.
Education for blind children or children who have low vision provides the traditional academic experience with the addition of specialized services to aid in the development of critical life skills for adulthood. Children who are blind or have low vision can attend school in inclusive or integrated classrooms, with trained teachers and modest equipment and materials, or in specialized schools or centers.
The following needs must be addressed to work toward correcting educational inequities:
Rehabilitation consists of a wide range of clinical therapy and non-clinical training to provide people who are blind or have low vision with the skills and tools to maintain a safe, active and independent lifestyle.
While rehabilitation cannot restore lost sight, it can help individuals maximize any remaining vision so that they, as well as those who are blind, can travel safely, take care of their needs, meet their career goals, participate in education and enjoy leisure activities. To help the people who are blind or have low vision reach these goals, the following needs must be addressed:
SightFirst efforts to prevent and/or restore vision loss have traditionally focused on surgical treatments or drug therapies, infrastructure development and human resource training. Improving access to quality education and rehabilitation for people who are visually-impaired will broaden the program’s reach to include support for services which may fall outside SightFirst’s traditional work for vision care; yet they are crucial to our overall efforts to help those with vision loss and serve our humanitarian mission.
The following are priorities for education and rehabilitation projects:
In general, SightFirst projects must focus on the major causes of blindness on national or large regional levels. These projects reach populations who are underserved or who have limited or no access to eye health care services. The program funds high-quality, sustainable projects that deliver eye care services, develop infrastructure, train personnel and/or provide education and rehabilitation in underserved communities.
Find more information, including the SightFirst grant application, disease-specific questionnaires and long-range policy papers.
To learn more about the statistics found on this page, please visit the following:
International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairment
Perkins School for the Blind
World Blind Union