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Visual impairment (VI) is when someone can’t see properly.  People who can’t see at all may also be called blind.  Most people with VI can tell the difference between light and dark. People who can see a little, but not as much as someone with full sight may also be called partially sighted.

What is it like for siblings if their brother or sister has a Visual Impairment (VI)?

Lots of siblings get on really well with their brothers and sisters who have a VI. However, they may often be told that they have to look after them and help them with things. Siblings may also be expected to help more around the house than their brothers or sisters which sometimes doesn’t feel fair.

What causes Visual Impairment?

Eyes have a lens at the front to let light in.  The light travels through the eyeball to a screen at the back which changes the light into electric signals, which are sent to the brain by special nerves. This is similar to the way a camera works. If any of these bits don’t work well, it will stop someone from seeing properly. Some people are born with a VI. This may be because their parents have a VI, or it may just happen. Other people can develop a Visual Impairment because they have had an accident or a serious illness.

Some people may have one eye that works fine, but the other eye doesn’t work properly.

What does it mean?

We use our eyes to help with nearly everything we do;  going for a walk, getting dressed, eating, cutting up food, reading, writing, cooking, recognising our friends, finding things we have put down. People with a VI have to find other ways of doing all these things, and may need a lot of help with some of them. For example, they may have to be very careful to put things away in their proper place, so they can be found. It might be difficult for people with VI to meet and make friends.

People with VI usually get very good at using their other senses, especially hearing and touch, to tell them what is happening around them. They may find it hard to cope with loud or sudden noises.

What treatment is there?

A doctor who looks after people with a VI or who are partially sighted is called an ophthalmologist. People who are born completely blind cannot be cured. Sometimes other sight problems can be treated. Most people who are partially sighted will use glasses or contact lenses to help them see better.

There is lots of special equipment to help people who can’t see well:

  • Magnifiers
  • Talking computers and books
  • Books written in Braille which has bumps on the paper which they can read with their fingers
  • A specially trained guide dog