Almost two million people in the UK are living with some form of sight loss – around one person in thirty. Everyone experiences sight loss in a different way. Some people can’t see anything at all, while others will have blurred or distorted vision.
What causes sight loss?
Research suggests the most common causes of sight loss are:
- macular degeneration (ageing)
- detached retina
- diabetic retinopathy
As we get older, we're more likely to experience some level of sight loss. It affects one in five people aged 75 and over, and one in two people at 90.
Because of our ageing population, the number of people in the UK with sight loss is predicted to rise dramatically in future. By 2020 it's expected that 2,250,000 people will have some kind of visual impairment, making sight loss even more common than it is now.
Living with sight loss
Depending on your level of sight loss, you might find you need help with some everyday activities like:
- recognising faces or street signs
- telling the time
- using a computer screen, keyboard or keypad
- using the phone and taking down messages.
Having sight loss doesn't mean you have to stop enjoying life. There are lots of ways you can make the most of your existing sight. It could be as simple as buying reading glasses or making a few changes to your home. In some cases, specialised equipment can also make things a lot easier. And it’s important to tell friends and family so they understand and can offer their support.
Which phone features should I be looking for?
If you have sight loss and you’re looking for a new phone that will help, here are some features to look out for:
- large, well-spaced keys with good contrast between background colour and numbers (for some sight conditions a compact keypad may be more suitable)
- clear, good-sized text on the display
- a raised dot on button 5 to help you find your way around the keypad
- memory and one-touch speed dial keys
- keypad beeps to let you know you’ve pressed the buttons properly
- voice prompts
- loudspeaker so you can take notes by hand or use a Braille note taker
- cordless phones that you can keep with you when you move around
- call recording function – so if you want to take notes you can come back to it later
Where to get help and support
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) website has loads of information about living with sight loss. As well as learning about your rights and available benefits, you'll find product recommendations and community pages to help you connect with other people living with sight loss.
It's important to get an eye test at least every two years, as several causes of sight loss can be treated and even prevented if they’re caught in time. You can arrange an eye test by going to a high street optician, or through your GP.
Making the most of your sight
If you're partially sighted, it's important to make the most of your remaining sight. For some people making things bigger, bolder and brighter can help make day-to-day tasks a little easier.
Here are some more ideas that could help:
- choose gadgets like phones or clocks with large displays, or big buttons to make seeing them easier
- other devices that speak information to you, like talking clocks and watches.
If you find it difficult to read large amounts of text on a computer screen, you might want to think about using software that will read the text to you. Find out more on the RNIB website.
You can get lots of books or magazines in large print. Many companies (like BT) also offer instructions and guides in alternative formats such as Braille and Audio CDs.