Visual Impairment, Blind, Low VisionWhat is it? Total blindness is the inability to tell light from dark, or the total inability to see. Visual impairment or low vision is a severe reduction in vision that cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses and reduces a person's ability to function at certain or all tasks. Legal blindness refers to a best-corrected central vision of 20/200 or worse in the better eye; or a visual acuity of better than 20/200 but with a visual field no greater than 20° (e.g., side vision that is so reduced that it appears as if the person is looking through a tunnel). (1)
  • Characteristics: The effect of visual problems on a child’s development depends on the severity, type of loss, age at which the condition appears, and overall functioning level of the child. Many children who have multiple disabilities may also have visual impairments resulting in motor, cognitive, and/or social developmental delays. A young child with visual impairments has little reason to explore interesting objects in the environment and, thus, may miss opportunities to have experiences and to learn. This lack of exploration may continue until learning becomes motivating or until intervention begins. Because the child cannot see parents or peers, he or she may be unable to imitate social behavior or understand nonverbal cues. Visual handicaps can create obstacles to a growing child’s independence.

-Vision loss means that a person’s eyesight is not corrected to a “normal” level. Vision loss can vary greatly among children and can be caused by many things.

-Vision loss can be caused by damage to the eye itself, by the eye being shaped incorrectly, or even by a problem in the brain. Babies can be born unable to see, and vision loss can occur anytime during a person’s life. (1)

-Your child should be checked for vision problems by an ophthalmologist, optometrist, pediatrician, or other trained specialist at:
  • newborn to 3 months
  • 6 months to 1 year
  • about 3 years-5 years
  • having your child’s vision checked is especially important if someone in your family has had vision problems.

-A child with vision loss may:
  • close or cover one eye nsquint the eyes or frown
  • complain that things are blurry or hard to see
  • have trouble reading or doing other close-up work, or hold objects close to eyes in order to see
  • blink more than usual or seem cranky when doing close-up work (such as looking at books)

-What can I do if I think my vhild may have vision loss? Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. If you or your doctor think there could be a problem, you can take your child to see an ophthalmologist, optometrist, or other specialist, and you can contact your local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older). To find out whom to speak to in your area, contact the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities at or call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-800-232-4636. In addition, CDC has information about vision loss at (1)
Treating vision problems early may protect your child’s sight, and teaching children with severe vision loss how to function as early as possible can help them reach their full potential. (1)

-Below is a short video about what it is like to be visually impaired for only 2 1/2 minutes, something that many of these children have spend a lifetime with. With this reality we have to accept the fact that families go through everyday struggles with their visually impaired children and hopefully this resource can help them a bit.

Here are some resources/organizations families can utilize in regards to the education their child with a visual impairment is receiving:

-Connect with the Expertise of Special Educators: Family Connect
The Family Connect website presents families with many useful resources relating to their child including:

  • Your rights as a parent/family member
  • Information regarding your child's IEP/IFSP
  • Practices to building a beneficial educational team for your child
  • Assessments available to your child to gauge what kind of accommodations they might require

-Accommodations for the Physical Environment: The proper classroom for children with visual disabilities
-Instructional Accommodations: Making the learning environment accessible to students with visual disabilities
-Serving Children with Visual Impairments: The importance of support and collaboration
  • The 3 resources above are modules and information put together by the IRIS Center.

  • The IRIS Center is a national center that aims to provide high-quality resources for college and university faculty and professional development providers about students with disabilities. IRIS seeks to obtain this goal by providing free, online, interactive training enhancements that translate research about the education of students with disabilities into practice.

-Products for Visually impaired Children: This link has a collection of products that children with visual impairments can utilize in both the classroom and also their everyday lives. Many of the products are useful for people of all ages but targeted toward children.

Below are resources that can be utilized by a family in regards to their child with a visual impairment:

-American Foundation for the Blind:
AFB’s Service Center, where you can search and identify services for blind and visually impaired persons in the United States and Canada.

-American Council of the Blind

-Blind Children’s Center

-Lighthouse International

-National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired

National Braille Association, Inc. (NBA)
National Braille Press

National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

National Federation of the Blind

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress

Prevent Blindness America

The Foundation Fighting Blindness
(formerly the National Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation)
1-800-683-5551 (TDD)

Vision Loss Fact Sheet