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Sight Loss

There are almost two million people with sight problems in the UK. This includes people who are registered blind and partially sighted, and other people whose sight problems have a serious impact on their lives.

Just over 370,000 people are registered as blind or partially sighted in the UK. People of all ages can experience sight loss but are more likely to start losing their sight as they get older.

Many people have eye conditions, which could be corrected by surgery, or improved by having the correct prescription for glasses or lenses.

Living with sight loss

Daily living can become very difficult for people with sight loss. Problems can be encountered with orientation, perception, balance and co-ordination.

Self-esteem, confidence and more obvious areas such as mobility and access to information can also be affected.

Some young people with blindness or partial sight may attend special schools or units within mainstream schools. Special schools usually have a wide catchment area and individuals often travel away from their own neighbourhood in order to attend. Scouting offers an opportunity to make friends close to home that might otherwise not exist.

Where sudden loss of sight occurs, a great deal of support will be needed especially as people come to terms with their sight loss.

Practical Tips

  • Always discuss with the individual and/or their parents about the eye condition and the extent to which help is needed. Ask for any advice or practical tips they may have to offer.
  • Don't worry about saying 'Nice to see you.' Blind and partially sighted people use these phrases too.
  • Use lots of verbal descriptions and try to avoid phrases such as 'over there.' Use directional instructions, 'walk to your left', 'towards me' etc.
  • Use touch appropriately when you meet and greet someone to let them know you are there. Let them know your name and who you are so they know you are looking after them. Always verbally 'sign on' when you meet someone and 'sign off' when you leave them.
  • Always let them know who else is around and whether they are in a small or large group.
  • Arrange a guided walk around your meeting place and any new venues and inform them of any changes.
  • When you are leading or guiding, ask the person if they require help and then ask them to grip your arm, just above the elbow. Walk at their pace, tell them where you are going and point out any obstacles or key points on the way.
  • There are a variety of aids available, such as magnifying lenses; large print publications; Braille transcriptions; audio descriptions; electronic reading aids and screen readers, all available from RNIB or local societies for the blind.
  • During many activities, verbal instructions and a 'running commentary' from a friend or instructor could be helpful. 
  • Always find out what aids are required for each individual; everyone will have different needs. For example, it is important not to just produce Braille documents when the person requires something in Large Print or audible format.
  • Some young people will use white canes for mobility and orientation, so the other Scouts need to understand and be aware of them.
  • The vast majority of people with sight problems are aged over 65.  With this in mind, you may need to think about ways you communicate with parents and other Leaders. 
  • Find out what specialist aids could help, eg a Braille compass, which could be used in Scouting activities, or tactile maps, brightly coloured ropes and pegs etc. Improvise too, with coloured tape and string to make markings or equipment bright, contrasting and tactile. 
  • If special educational provisions have been made for the individual, ask for permission to approach the school or college involved for any further tips they may have.

This information has been written in conjunction with Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB).



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