Know the Terms

Happy Saturday! Miserably 3H today. That is hazy, hot and humid. A Pennsylvania summer day at its finest. I don’t mind this. It is the type of day I would head off for the swimming hole when I was a kid. Good memories. However the husband hates it and the Beastie Baby, elderly and with lung disease (cancer?), is not thrilled.

Nine days in and she is still not looking as if she is at death’s door. Dare I hope? Still just taking it a day at a time.

I went to the Y this morning. I was cleared to TRY some things that would involve my shoulders. Got about halfway through yoga before I got ouchy.

Time to go back to major modifications. Grrrrrrrrrr…. I really am trying to be good. It is not easy.

Once I got home – and discovered I had zero motivation for any real work – I decided to write a page. Topic, topic,….TOPIC! How about visual impairment?!?!?

I always explain I am visually impaired, not blind, not low vision, etc. Some days I say I am legally blind. I have never been totally sure I am legally blind, though. I know I had to be legally blind in order to get the services I got from the state but maybe someone fudged a bit? I don’t actually feel legally blind.

But I digress. What are the proper terms anyway?

VisionAware published a list of terms. They say low vision is the preferred term these days. (Does anyone else have trouble keeping up with the ‘acceptable’ terms recently? I am always woefully not PC.) Low vision is uncorrectable vision loss that interferes with daily activities. Low vision’s definition is functional. If you cannot get enough correction to do what you need to do, it’s low vision. Sort of a subjective definition.

Legally blind Is a term used by government agencies. It is not subjective. If you want to try for disability or get goodies, you need visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with best correction. Another option for qualifying would be no correct letters read from the 20/100 line on the new charts.

Please note I said in the better eye. That means there has to be impairment in BOTH eyes. We have had clients insisting they qualify for help with only one ‘bad’ eye. Not the case.

The other way to qualify with dear Uncle Sam is to have tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is 20 degrees of arc or less in the better eye.

Remember that is with your better eye and with optimum correction. Those of you with only one involved eye again don’t qualify for help.

And as I get to the end of the article, I find my preferred label, visually impaired. Visual impairment is sort of a general term. It covers the gamut. You can be moderately, severely or profoundly impaired and still fall under visual impairment. Visual impairment and its levels are objective rather than functional as defined. The World Health Organization uses these levels in their work.

So, when all is said and done, I guess I can still tell people I am visually impaired. It is still an acceptable term, but you can say your are low vision, too. Don’t get too attached to your terminology, though. These ‘label’ things can change like the weather!

written July 22nd, 2017

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