Accidents And Risks Involving Blind People

Vision loss increases the risk of unintentional injury. Previous research highlighted the correlation between the type, severity, and frequency of injuries and the type and degree of vision loss. The categories of injuries considered included falls, occupational injuries, and traffic-related injuries. A thorough review of the literature established that the risk of unintentional injury due to falls is higher for those with visual impairment than for the general population. Other than the literature about falls, very few studies are available relating visual impairment to other types of injuries, including occupational and traffic-related injuries. Only one other study briefly addressed the risk of collision against obstacles, which is one of the main themes of this contribution. In that study, each person in a cohort of elderly persons was asked to provide a visual self-assessment, with questions that included how often the person bumped into objects that he or she missed seeing. It was shown that bumping into objects was not correlated with visual acuity, and it was only weakly correlated with limited ambulation due to poor vision. Bumping into objects, however, was shown to be a good predictor of falls and recurrent falls.

Walking without sight brings forth the risk of falls and collisions. Although mitigated by the use of mobility aids such as the long cane and the dog guide, this risk needs special consideration. The risk of having an unintentional injury is higher for people who are visually impaired compared with the fully sighted population. It is critical that in planning and implementing measures to reduce the risk of injuries occurring in the home, workplace, and the general environment, specific consideration is given to those with visual impairment.

Intuitively, there are two main reasons why people with visual impairment are more susceptible to injury: they have fewer visual clues to alert them to potential hazards such as oncoming traffic, and home environments and workplaces have not been suitably adapted, for example, with adequate lighting. Also, the risk of falling is exacerbated in certain groups, such as older people, who tend to be more dependent on vision to maintain vertical posture. Refractive errors are caused by irregularity in the shape of the eye, making it hard to focus clearly.

They include myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), astigmatism (caused by an irregularly curved cornea) and presbyopia (a normal ageing change where the eye is no longer able to focus at close range). These eye conditions can be particularly problematic in poorer developing countries, where those affected may not be able to afford sight tests or spectacles.

As of this year, the DOH said an estimated 332, 150 people in the country are bilaterally blind while the current number of persons with bilateral low vision has already reached 2, 179, 733. Of the total number of bilaterally blind, 33 percent or about 109, 609 cases were due to cataract while 25 percent was caused by error in refraction (EOR). Fourteen percent was due to glaucoma.

About 937, 285 or 43 percent of those suffering from bilateral low vision was due to EOR, 34 percent or 741, 109 was caused by cataract while the rest was attributed to glaucoma and other eye diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, with 39 million blind and 246 million with low vision.

Cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness globally followed by glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration as the secondary causes. Cataracts are caused by a build-up of protein that clouds the eye’s lens, which can lead to blurred vision and, eventually, blindness. The condition is often thought to only affect older people, but in developing countries it’s a huge problem for children too. Cataracts are thought to cause up to 60 per cent of blindness in parts of Africa, and 20 million people worldwide are blind because of the condition.

18 March 2020
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