Friend with Vision Impairment

Kids who are visually impaired use all kinds of clever ways to do the same things that you do every day.

They rely on their senses of hearing and touch, and often get around just fine.

Cool Tools for Kids with Vision Impairment

Here are some cool things they might use to help with their vision impairment:

Braille books and devices

Many kids with little or no vision learn to read and write braille. Raised dots represent letters and numbers so that you can read and write by feeling with your fingers.

To produce braille, you can:

  • Punch the dots by hand with a slate and stylus.
  • Use a braille printer that punches dots instead of using ink.

Kids who write braille can take notes as quickly as kids who write with ink.

You can use portable braille displays with computers. They do the same job as a computer monitor, except the person feels the braille dots instead of looking at a screen.

Braille keyboards allow you to write braille. They’re like the keyboard on your computer. The six keys on a Braille keyboard represent one of the six dots that Braille uses in each letter.

You can even write and read music in braille.

There are also many games you can play in braille, including card and board games.

Vision aids

Kids who have some usable sight can do a lot by using special tools.

To see computer and TV screens, they wear special glasses or hold magnifiers in their hand or put them on a desktop.

Some kids can read large-print books, but this may be tiring. Other large-print items — such as playing cards — are very easy to use and everyone can join in!

Talking devices

You’ve probably heard a computer or smart phone speaking, like a GPS device in a car. Kids who are visually impaired sometimes use computerized speech instead of reading print.

They might have a computer, smart phone, or tablet read the text to them when:

  • Doing an assignment for school.
  • Checking their email.
  • Reading a book just for fun.

Talking watches and more

Just press a button to hear the time!

More talking technology is available, including portable scanners that can “read” a package in a store or a menu in a restaurant. Just scan and the device will announce what it's reading.

White canes

Holding a long, white cane in front of them helps a visually impaired person tell where they're going.

The cane:

  • Warns them if they're about to walk into something.
  • Lets them know when there's a step in front of them.
  • Helps them find things like the entrance to your school building or your front steps.

Guide dogs

People with visual impairment usually don't have a guide dog before age 16 or so.

Guide dogs go to a special school where they learn how to help people with vision impairment be more independent.

When you see a harness on a guide dog, that means the dog is working. Do not pet or talk to a guide dog who is working.

When the harness comes off, the dog is off-duty and free to play and accept your affection.

No matter whether the dog’s harness is on or off, never feed the dog. Guide dogs are not allowed people food.

FAQs

How should I act around my friend with visual impairment?

It’s important to keep in mind that in most ways, kids who are visually impaired are just like any of your other friends. You’ll find things you both like to do, stories and games you both enjoy, and plenty of ways to laugh and have fun together. But if you want to make sure you don’t hurt your friend’s feelings, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • If you’re curious about something or wonder if there are times that you should help, ask your friend.
  • Direct your questions to your friend. Don’t ask someone else in the room, like a parent or teacher.
  • Always announce that you’re there when you enter a room.
  • Talk in a normal voice. Don’t raise your voice.
  • Provide assistance if it’s requested, but never grab your friend’s arm.
  • Just be yourself, like you would with any friend.

Is my friend blind?

Some kids with vision impairment are totally blind, meaning they have no usable sight. Most kids who are visually impaired are partially sighted or have low vision; which mean that they have some usable sight. Twelve out of 1,000 people under age 18 have vision impairments.

What causes vision impairment?

Some people are born with vision impairment, and some develop it because of an illness or an injury. Some lose their sight quickly, and others lose it more slowly. Getting used to a vision impairment can be hard, but with time, kids with vision impairment can learn how to do almost anything you can do.

Can I say “see” and “watch” around my friend?

Sure—using those words doesn’t mean that you’re being insensitive. People with visual impairment will use them, too. They may say they are happy to see you or tell you about a movie they watched.