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Cost of living is hitting mental and physical wellbeing of blind and partially sighted people new research shows

Making harrowing spending choices is impacting the mental and physical health of blind and partially sighted people as the cost of living crisis continues to bite - with a second winter looming.

  • Two thirds (66 per cent) of blind and partially sighted people say the cost-of-living crisis has had a negative impact on their mental health
  • Over a fifth (22 per cent) of blind and partially sighted people have cut back on replacing or buying assistive technology because of the cost-of-living crisis, which are vital to their every days lives – such as screen readers, braille displays, and speech recognition software
  • 38 per cent have reported a drop in their physical health because of the cost-of-living crisis with 34 per cent saying it has impacted on overall wellbeing
  • As well as 35 per cent spending less on food, two-fifths (39 per cent) are spending less on social and leisure activities which can have a detrimental impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

New research from the Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB) highlights the ongoing struggles – and deteriorating wellbeing – people with sight loss are facing, with financial pressures continuing to hit hard. People shared their views with the leading sight loss charity, building a picture of isolation and people sacrificing the basics that help them to live their lives:

Alongside the new research, RNIB has testimonies from three blind and partially sighted people who candidly describe how rising costs are having a devastating impact on their lives.

View our cost of living YouTube playlist

RNIB is calling for a UK Government review of how benefits are set and increased, so people can always manage the extra costs that come with sight loss and for energy support for blind and partially sighted people

Vivienne Francis, RNIB Chief Social Change Officer says:

“Our helpline is reporting a high number of calls from increasingly distressed people, weary from dealing with the every-day choices between vital items, from food to technology – and the toll the cost of living crisis is taking on their wellbeing.

“We are doing what we can, but we do need others to play their role too. Urgent government action is needed now as we enter the harsh winter months where these issues will be exacerbated, causing extreme worry and anxiety. We’re calling on the Government to urgently review how benefits are set and increased. They must always cover the essentials, and the extra costs that come with sight loss, such as increased lighting and technologies. We’re also calling for much needed energy support from the Government.

“Everyday life was already more expensive for people with sight loss, with additional and unavoidable costs, like taxi journeys or assistive technology, to support in the home, to the tune of up to £135 five years ago. Without intervention, these costs could spiral unchecked. The greater cost of people’s health also needs to be at the forefront of decisions.”

Kim Jaye, age 59, visually impaired woman from Bolton said:

“I am having to cut down on the things that I like to do, like going out to community groups or just visiting friends because it's costing such an incredible amount of money to travel on taxis, buses, trains.

“It’s having a massive psychological and social impact on my blind and partially sighted friends too. Being visually impaired, we're already isolated to start off with, and we’re becoming more and more isolated because we’re unable to go out and do the things that we would normally do because all our money is going on to bills”

“Like many people who are visually impaired, I am on benefits, I can’t work and I’ve got various health conditions. In the last 12 months, my mortgage has gone up by £500, my energy up by £100 a month, and my food bill has tripled. And yet my benefits have only gone up by £110 a month.

“It's taking me longer to shop, I’m having to keep asking how much is this? How much is that? You don’t know where the low-cost items are due to my sight loss. I’ve had to put food down because they have tripled in price. The one thing that I love the most is going into the kitchen and cooking. I have to buy the ingredients and I have to use gas. And not being able to do that as often, is for me, heartbreaking. On top of having to deal with my sight loss every single day and the obstacles that you face, I am now having to face all of this and it is so tiring.”

Anonymous quotes provided via our Helpline include:

“Now I have, like most sight impaired people, a lot of assistive technology and one of mine is breaking down now. I'm absolutely lost without this technology. I can't do what I want to do without it, but can I afford to get it replaced? No, I can't because the PIP [Personal Independence Payment] that I would have used to get it replaced is now being used to pay my bills.”

It’s too cold in my house for me to be able to read books and information in Braille.”

Support from RNIB

As the cost-of-living challenges continue to bite, RNIB’s vital Sight Loss Advice Service continues to experience a surge in calls to its helpline, with a regular increase of more than 30 per cent at peak times.

The advisors on the service understand the unique challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people, providing personalised support and bespoke financial guidance. They also provide access to practical and quick solutions to ease the burden on the financial pressures that they face – equipping them with the tools and knowledge to increase their financial wellbeing and resilience.

RNIB is also offering energy specific support through the British Gas Energy Trust.

RNIB’s Sight Loss Advice Service is available to anyone concerned on 0303 123 9999 between 8am and 8pm on weekdays, and between 9am and 1pm on Saturdays.

Advice and support is also available via RNIB’s Cost of Living

Notes to editors

All surveys were conducted between 18th October 2023 and 27th October 2023. The sample comprised 401 UK adults registered blind or partially sighted.

  • The research was carried out online by Research Without Barriers – RWB
  • All research conducted adheres to the UK Market Research Society (MRS) code of conduct (2023)
  • RWB is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and complies with the DPA (2018)

All media enquiries to the RNIB press office on 0207 391 2223 or [email protected]. For urgent enquiries out-of-hours, please call 07968 482812.

About RNIB

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