Every October, Blindness Awareness Month brings a heightened focus on the blind and visually impaired community and the realities of living without sight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “everyone, if they live long enough, will experience at least one eye condition in their lifetime”. The proof is in the numbers. An estimated 2.2 billion people around the globe suffer from some form of visual impairment or blindness – including everyone who simply wears corrective lenses. One billion of these cases could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed. So, we should all understand how to maintain optimal eye health and how to navigate life with visual impairments, whether for ourselves or loved ones. Read on to learn how you can observe, celebrate, and advocate during Blindness Awareness Month.
History of Blindness Awareness Month
Blindness Awareness Month launched in October 2009 from The Little Rock Foundation, an organization in Voorhees, New Jersey, dedicated to serving families with blind or visually impaired children. Tina and Rocco Fiorentino formed The Little Rock Foundation one year after the birth of their child, Rocco, who was born four months premature and blind. As Ambassador for The Little Rock Foundation, Rocco has shown the world blindness doesn’t prevent people from living life to the fullest.
Blindness Awareness Month seeks to accomplish many things:
- Education: Companies around the world teach the public about good eye health and the latest research and innovations in the treatment of eye disorders.
- Inspiration: Stories are shared about blind or visually impaired people accomplishing incredible things most sighted people do not attempt.
- Advocacy: Organizations garner support for more resources, research, access, and laws that enable people with visual impairments to live fully productive lives and contribute equally to their communities.
There is no shortage of ways to learn about, celebrate, and support the visually impaired community throughout Blindness Awareness Month.
Blindness Awareness Month timeline
- October 2009
Blindness Awareness Month Launched
The Little Rock Foundation in Voorhees, New Jersey created Blindness Awareness Month to be recognized every October to promote improving blind and visually impaired children's lives.
Vision 2020 Proposed Global Plan
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness proposed Vision 2020 to advocate eliminating needless visual impairment and helping those with unavoidable vision loss reach their life's full potential.
Newsline For the Blind Established
The National Federation of the Blind created the Newsline for the Blind — giving blind and visually impaired people access to newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals using touch-tone phones.
Initial Braille Writing System Developed
At age 15, Louis Braille developed his first writing system that led to modern-day Braille, allowing the visually impaired to read through a series of raised dots on embossed paper.
Blindness Awareness Month FAQs
Where can I go for more information?
There are numerous local, national, and global organizations that support the blind and visually impaired and the research to end blindness. Check out the National Federation of the Blind, Foundation Fighting Blindness, and The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
When is National Blind Day?
World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual event held on the second Thursday of October.
What color ribbon is for blindness?
How to Observe Blindness Awareness Month
In the name of a relative, friend, or even yourself —donate to an organization helping the visually impaired. Organizations like the National Federation of the Blind or the Foundation Fighting Blindness work year-round to fund research to prevent and cure conditions causing vision impairment or blindness. Your donations support their research in areas such as genetics, transplantation, retinal implants, and nutritional and pharmaceutical therapies.
Read to someone
Do you know a legally impaired or blind student? Does your elderly neighbor struggle to read books, newspapers, or magazines? Volunteer to read to them. This is a meaningful way to spend time with someone who is visually challenged and may not have tools to read on their own.
Volunteer to Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes is a free app connecting visually impaired people with sighted volunteers who lend their eyes to help them lead more independent lives. Join over 3 million volunteers worldwide who assist with everyday activities such as navigating new surroundings, distinguishing colors, and reading instructions.
5 Tips For Maintaining Eye Health
Watch your sugar
Diabetics are 25 times more likely to develop blindness or visual impairment than non-diabetics.
Wash your hands
We don’t realize how many times we touch our face and eyes each day, especially if we wear contacts; washing your hands prevents the spread of bacteria and germs which can lead to pink-eye, colds, and other ailments.
Protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays by wearing sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
Monitor device time
To avoid eye strain from time in front of your electronic devices, take frequent breaks to focus on a far-away object; adjust brightness, and use soothing eye drops, as needed.
Get checked out
Many eye disorders could be easily treated or even prevented through early detection; make an appointment with your eye doctor today!
WHY BLINDNESS AWARENESS MONTH IS IMPORTANT
It helps us understand vision problems
Education is key. Throughout Blindness Awareness Month, many companies provide educational events to teach employees about eye disorder prevention. Ask your Benefits department for more information on your vision plan to ensure you are getting the most from your insurance coverage.
It gives us hope
Blindness Awareness Month is a time for sharing stories of hope as much as it is understanding the alarming statistics. It gives blind and visually impaired people a platform for telling their own stories as well as inspiring others to overcome the stigma of their disabilities. This month reminds us that we don't have to be defined by our physical limitations.
It serves as a reminder
While there are many opportunities to learn about the blind and visually impaired community throughout October, it’s better to allow this time to serve as a reminder that protecting our vision and helping those who suffer from low or no vision is something we can do year-round. Start forming new habits this month that continue throughout the year whether that is volunteering with the visually impaired or taking care of your eye health.
Blindness Awareness Month dates