About Vision Impairment - Royal Institute for Deaf & Blind Children

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About Vision Impairment

Learning that your child might have a vision impairment can be a confusing time. We have a community of people and professionals at RIDBC who can help you on your journey forward.

A student with vision impairment

Your first stop for learning about vision impairment

While there are some common causes, the experience of vision impairment or blindness is unique to each person. We’ve answered some common questions below, but it’s always best to talk to our team – we can tailor an individual program for your child and your family to help you reach your goals.

Vision impairment is defined as a limitation of one or more functions of the eye (or visual system).

Many things can cause vision impairment in children including eye conditions that have been inherited, the influence of preterm birth on the child’s eyes and their brain and other conditions that children are born with or develop as they grow.

Different parts of the visual system can be affected, such as:

  • The eye
  • The connections between the eye and the brain
  • The parts of the brain involved in vision.

A tailored approach to early intervention is important for children with vision impairment to ensure:

  • All areas of their development are on track and not delayed
  • They have early access to literacy by introducing assistive technology, low vision aids and/or braille
  • They have early access to orientation and mobility support.

Helping people with a vision impairment to move safely and independently through any environment is usually known as orientation and mobility (O&M). The earlier these skills are introduced, the more confidently and independently people with vision impairment can navigate the world. Depending on their age, personal preference, degree of vision, the types of activities they engage with and the environments they need to move in there are a range of O&M supports, including:

  • Assistance from a sighted guide.
  • A cane, or a pushable mobility device for young children.
  • A guide dog.
  • Assistive devices and other technologies, such as an electronic travel aid that uses ultrasound or infrared light to detect when a physical object is near.

Depending on the degree of vision, there are a number of supports, including hand-held magnifiers, CCTVs, hard copy large print and braille. Low vision and braille screen readers, and optical camera recognition devices also allow people who are blind or who have low vision to independently and efficiently access print information.

Some people with vision impairment learn to use braille, a tactile reading and writing system. It is not its own language but rather an alphabet of raised, tactile dots that can be used to represent letters, punctuation, mathematical and scientific characters, music, computer notations and non-English characters. While there are different systems of braille throughout the world, Unified English Braille (UEB) is currently the standard for most English-speaking countries.

RIDBC offers a number of tools and supports for braille users, their families and the communities around them.

Vision Resources

Childhood vision impairment in Australia

It is estimated that 4 out of 10,000 children born in Australia will be diagnosed with severe vision impairment.

RIDBC maintains the Australian Childhood Vision Impairment Register (ACVIR), the only national register of children with significant vision impairment. We encourage children (from birth to 18 years) and their families to join the register, to help build an accurate picture of childhood vision impairment across Australia, and to identify the supports children and their families need.

To register your child please click here.