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Impact on friendships is a top concern for those losing their sight during teenage years

  • Research commissioned by leading sight loss charity Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) shows that losing their sight as a teen left almost two fifths (39%) concerned about how they would socialise with friends
  • Over a third (35%) were worried about how they were going to finish education and get a job
  • The research is tied in with the launch of RNIB’s new campaign to dispel myths and encourage people to ‘See the person, not the sight loss’.

Research commissioned by RNIB amongst blind and partially sighted people has revealed that for those who lost their sight, or already had a visual impairment, during their teenage years – worries about being able to go out with friends and socialise was a big source of anxiety.[1]

On top of the common challenges and pressures of being a teenager, visually impaired teenagers also have the added worry of the impact on being able to read and how that in turn may affect their education and future careers.

Biggest misconceptions about blind and partially sighted people

In the RNIB research, people with sight loss also highlighted some of the biggest misconceptions that sighted people have of blind and partially sighted people. This includes some of the obscure questions blind and partially sighted people are asked, including: ‘How do you know when you have your period?’ (20%), ‘How do you look after your children?’ (15%) and ‘Can your guide dog read bus numbers?’ (10%).

In addition, over a third of blind and partially sighted people said that they wished that sighted people would stop asking them how many fingers they are holding up to check if they can see or not.

See the Person, not the sight loss

RNIB has launched its new campaign ‘See the person, not the sight loss’, challenging outdated public attitudes and misperceptions of sight loss. At the heart of the campaign sits an emotive and thought-provoking film, telling the story of Ava, a fictional teenage girl who is coming to terms with losing her sight.

We see the impact that losing her sight has on many areas of her life, from education to relationships. Most crucially, the film demonstrates how sight loss can impact mental health as well as physical health. However, as Ava moves towards accepting her diagnosis, a theme of hope starts to emerge. With the help of RNIB, Ava’s friends, family and teachers offer their support, while a RNIB Eye Care Liaison Officer, found at 198 sites such as eye clinics across the UK, counsels her post-diagnosis. Ava starts to find her feet again, accepting her condition and regaining confidence.

David Aldwinckle, Director of Insight and Customer Voice at RNIB, said:

“As someone who’s lived with sight loss for forty years, these findings really resonated with me emotionally. When people are diagnosed with sight loss, we know that they often experience a range of emotions including shock, anger and anxiety. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve made it a core part of our mission to improve understanding of sight loss.

“At RNIB, blind and partially sighted people often tell us that they wish other people had a better understanding of what it means to be living with a vision impairment, and we know that by making sometimes small changes to their behaviour, people can help to create a more equitable world for anyone affected by sight loss.

“I’m excited by the launch of our important campaign and with the authenticity of our film, which captures the range of feelings that people go through - the fear, the sense of anxiety, the anger and denial. But really importantly it captures the fact that we also have desire, passion, ambition, skills and abilities to live full lives and contribute to the world around us just like everybody else.”

In portraying the character of Ava, the lead actor, Eli London, drew upon their own personal experiences of sight loss, having had retinoblastoma in childhood, resulting in monocular vision.

Eli said: “This short film is going to have a tangible, deep impact for a lot of people. Following a young woman, a student, a gamer, through a sight loss journey is overtly a different approach to media that has covered this story before, but it's important, and necessary. We exist, and it's been a pleasure to bring her story to screen, to give someone out there their truest representation.”

Erik Matthies works for RNIB and is partially sighted. Erik said: “RNIB’s film touches on some of the most significant life events in your teenage years – figuring out who you are, building relationships and thinking about going to Uni or getting a job.

“It’s vital that there’s support for teenagers, as well as other age groups, and their families as there’s going to be a grieving process for anyone losing their sight. However, it is also incredibly important that we focus on ‘hope’.”

For me, sight loss isn’t something to ‘overcome’ because you don’t overcome it, it’s part of your life, part of who you are.”

The campaign has been supported by many partners, most notably the support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery through the Postcode Care Trust.

The two-minute ‘See the Person, not the sight loss’ film is online and in cinemas, along with the 60 second film. The 60 second film has aired on prime-time television with a 30 second version running throughout the rest of the four-week campaign period on both TV and VOD. The full three-and-a-half-minute film is available to view online also.

To further elevate the issue of sight loss to the public, RNIB is partnering with Channel 4’s Gogglebox. During Friday’s episode on 14th October, the cast will watch the campaign film, opening up the conversation about sight loss to the whole nation. The bespoke partnership was brokered by media agency, Wavemaker UK.

You can watch the full film here and the 60 second version here.

Notes to editors

Interviews and images available on request.

[1] The research was carried out online by Research Without Barriers (RWB). All surveys were conducted between 2 September 2022 and 22 September 2022 and the sample comprised 405 UK adults registered blind or partially sighted. All research conducted adheres to the UK Market Research Society (MRS) code of conduct (2019).

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.

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