Research carried out amongst blind and partially sighted people has today [16 October] revealed that other people’s limited knowledge and understanding of sight loss is the biggest barrier they face in their everyday lives . A general lack of awareness, incorrect assumptions and outdated stereotypes all make day-to-day life harder for people with sight loss.
These poor societal attitudes and lack of awareness were judged to be a bigger barrier to inclusion than practical challenges including finding and keeping a job, navigating streets and using public transport.
The findings were backed up by a poll of the general public  which revealed that 50 per cent believe that blind and partially sighted people would struggle to find and hold down a job. 28 per cent of those surveyed wrongly believe that blind and partially sighted people cannot read books and 31 per cent said that blind and partially sighted people cannot enjoy TV and film.
The survey also suggested that people lack confidence when it comes to providing assistance. Nearly half (44 per cent) of people surveyed admitted that they would not always help a blind or partially sighted person, with 8 per cent saying they would be afraid of causing offence, and a further 8 per cent feeling unsure of how to help.
The research has been released by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to mark its 150th anniversary and launch of the charity’s new vision: a world without barriers for blind and partially sighted people.
Eleanor Southwood, Chair of RNIB, said: “It’s sad to hear that above anything else, it’s outdated attitudes and a lack of confidence amongst the general public that presents the biggest challenge for blind and partially sighted people.
“We’ve come a long way since RNIB was formed in 1868, but as the research shows, we’ve still got a lot of work to do in raising awareness of what it really means to have sight loss. As we mark our 150th anniversary and look to the future, we’re even more determined to create a world free of barriers for people with sight loss, where we can live the lives we want to lead and are valued for who we are, not defined by the disabilities we have.”
She added: “Removing these barriers depends on blind and partially sighted people having the confidence, practical and emotional support and opportunities to thrive. It’s also about feeling connected to other people, locally or through shared interests, and, as the research shows, improving society’s understanding of the experience and spectrum of sight loss.
“This is a key area of focus for us. Working with our partners in other charities, business and government, we want to make sure everyone can access the advice and support they need and that nobody feels alone in a world that includes and values us all. It’s an ambitious vision but one I’m confident we can achieve as we move into an exciting new chapter of our story.”
The charity recently unveiled a new brand supported by a series of adverts and short films which use everyday scenarios and humour to urge people to see the person, not the sight loss.
 RNIB research which collected the views of over 600 blind and partially sighted people around the barriers they face in order to inform planning in our 150th year.
 The research for RNIB was carried out by Research Without Barriers (RWB) between 05/10/2018 and 08/10/2018 amongst a panel resulting in 1,013 respondents. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines.
Two short films are available as follows:
High resolution images, interviews with RNIB spokespeople and case studies and other content available on request.
All media enquiries to RNIB’s PR team on [email protected] or 020 7391 2223. For urgent enquiries out-of-hours, please call 07968 482812.
We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are.
RNIB. See differently.
Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk
Eleanor Southwood was born in 1982 with a genetic condition called Leber’s congenital amaurosis and she has never had any useful sight. She is Chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and is a local Councillor in Brent, north west London.