Living with sight loss FAQ

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Photo of various assistive devices

I need assistive devices like a talking watch, a white cane or a magnifier. Where can I buy these devices?

You can buy them from our Resource Centre. We have the largest Resource Centre in Africa. Click here to see our catalogue.

Black and white photo of the soles of two feet

Diabetics who develop foot infections have a 154-fold higher risk of losing the affected foot. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, 86 000 amputations are performed annually in the United States as a direct result of diabetes and half of those who have a foot or leg amputated will lose the other within five years.

Taking care of one’s feet can be easy. However, the job becomes quite difficult when one’s vision is impaired. Vision impairment makes it difficult to detect the early signs of foot problems. So how does one do foot care while coping with diminished vision?

  • Hands-on foot care. After washing and drying the feet, lift one foot to a comfortable resting position and use the balls of your fingertips and thumb to feel the entire surface. Fingertips are especially sensitive to changes in texture. Through hands-on foot care, one can find any breaks in the skin, new corns, calluses, blisters, swollen areas, small objects imbedded in the foot or anything that was not there the day before.
  • Back hand check. Run the back of the hand, which is especially sensitive to temperature, over as much of the surface of each foot. An unusually cool spot may indicate impaired circulation. An unusually warm area which may appear as a reddish spot, is generally the result of inflammation and often indicates the presence of infection.
  • Use the sense of smell. While feet often do not have a particularly pleasant smell, an unusually bad foot odour can be a sign of a fungal infection. Often, a suddenly offensive odour will be the first indication of an infection.

Successful non-visual foot inspection depends on the sensitivity of the hands. In cases where a diabetic patient’s hands are numb, the patient should get the help of a sighted family member or friend.

Visit http://www.allaboutdiabetes.net/caring-for-vision-impaireds-feet/ for full details.

Picture of two women, one is signing a document

A cardboard or metal template, with a cutout area corresponding to the space where the document or cheque is signed, enables a blind person to 'sign on the dotted line'. This device is called a signature guide. Some blind people prefer to have a stamp made with their signature, while others will ask you to place their index finger on the line where they must sign.

Photo of a doll sitting on bed with clothes scattered around it

Getting dressed in the morning can be tricky when you don't know which colours you're mixing and matching ... so blind people often sew buttons of various sizes and shapes onto the inside of skirts, shirts and trousers to help them match up outfits.

An electronic, talking colour identifier is also available from our Resource Centre, but this is an expensive option.

Photo of a blind lady threading a needle

Fortunately, help is at hand with an ingenious invention known as a self-threading needle!
The eye of the needle has a tiny hinge on a spring. When the thread is pressed down firmly, it springs open and, hey presto, the needle is threaded.

One also gets needle threaders to assist you in threading regular and machine needles. This is one of our top sellers in our Resource Centre (definitely not to blind customers only!)

Photo of three people in front of a house, one with a white cane

1. Always announce your name, even if they know you. Don't expect them to recognise your voice.
2. If necessary, touch the blind person gently on the elbow to get their attention. Don't grab a cane or pet a guide dog without asking permission first.
3. Offer your help, but don't be offended if the blind person prefers to cope on their own.
4. Address the blind person directly, not through their companion. There's no need to raise your voice; blindness is not deafness.
5. Use words like 'see' and 'look' naturally in conversation.
6. When guiding a blind person, let them take your arm and check if you are moving at a comfortable speed. Warn them when you are approaching steps or the kerb.
7. When helping a blind person to sit down, guide their hand to the back of the chair and let them seat themselves without assistance. Never push them backwards into a chair.
8. If you are driving and you see a blind person waiting to cross the street, proceed normally. Don't hoot, shout instructions, or stop suddenly. 

Photo of a girl reading braille

 

Sighted people who come into contact with Braille often remark that they don't know how blind people make any sense at all out of the rows of tiny raised dots.

So, how difficult is it to learn Braille? In fact, it's not difficult at all.

Mastering the basic alphabet seldom takes more than a few weeks and then, as with anything else, practice makes perfect!

Photo of the Coin Selector and the Money Template

Believe it or not, a coin has six distinct features by which a blind person can identify it: size, thickness, shape (not all are entirely round) pattern of grooves round the edge, the sound it makes when dropped onto a table and the raised picture on the face.

One, two, three, four or five raised diamond shapes in the middle of the bottom half of the new South African bank notes enable blind people to identify them as R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 respectively. The notes are also different lengths.

For the benefit of the partially sighted, the Reserve Bank has introduced geometric shapes on the front of the banknotes. The R10 note features a diamond, the R20 a square, the R50 a circle, the R100 a 'flat' hexagon and the R200 a 'honeycomb' hexagon.

For quick and easy reference, plastic coin selectors and money templates (to measure banknotes) are available from Council's Resource Centre.

Photo of three people in front of a house, one with a white cane

1. Always announce your name, even if they know you. Don't expect them to recognise your voice.
2. If necessary, touch the blind person gently on the elbow to get their attention. Don't grab a cane or pet a guide dog without asking permission first.
3. Offer your help, but don't be offended if the blind person prefers to cope on their own.
4. Address the blind person directly, not through their companion. There's no need to raise your voice; blindness is not deafness.
5. Use words like 'see' and 'look' naturally in conversation.
6. When guiding a blind person, let them take your arm and check if you are moving at a comfortable speed. Warn them when you are approaching steps or the kerb.
7. When helping a blind person to sit down, guide their hand to the back of the chair and let them seat themselves without assistance. Never push them backwards into a chair.
8. If you are driving and you see a blind person waiting to cross the street, proceed normally. Don't hoot, shout instructions, or stop suddenly.

Photo of Dr Rowland giving a presentation

Follow the link below for the WBU PowerPoint Guidelines on how to make visual presentations accessible to audience members who have a vision impairment.
 

Council, like the World Blind Union, recognises that visual aids are a standard feature of modern presentations, and often house styles and colours are required to be incorporated into them. The following guidelines are not intended to be prescriptive, but rather suggestions of good practice. They are designed to help presenters include all members of their audience.