Ophthalmologist Sarah-Lucie Watson has praised research conducted for Blind Veterans UK, the charity for blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women, which demonstrates a “major positive shift” in the public’s perception of blindness over the last century.
Blind Veterans UK’s Attitudes to Blindness survey, conducted by YouGov to mark the charity’s centenary year has found that 65% of the general public have indicated that if they were to lose their sight, it would not mean that their “lives were as good as over”.
The charity says this shows an “encouraging” contrast to when the charity was founded on 29 January 1915, to provide support and services to blinded World War I veterans, enabling them to lead as full and independent lives as possible, to a public that held a widespread negative view that blindness meant a person’s life was as good as over.
The findings also show that 60% of the general public do not see blindness as a barrier to being able to lead a happy and active life. It further found 81% of the general public thought that sight loss would not be an obstacle for blind or vision impaired people to start a new job or career.
Sarah-Lucie Watson has been a Consultant ophthalmologist for ten years at The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation trust, and, has recently become a trustee of Blind Veterans UK. She said: “The results of Blind Veterans UK’s Attitudes to Blindness survey are extremely encouraging, as they show a major positive shift in the public’s perception of blindness over the last 100 years. This has been, in part, due to the life-changing work of organisations and sight loss charities like Blind Veterans UK.
“When blind soldiers began returning from World War I, the public generally believed these blind veterans’ lives were ‘as good as over’. The public generally didn’t believe blind veterans could live independently, pursue successful careers or participate in sport and other recreational activities. Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 to help ex-Service men and women show there is life beyond life sight loss, and the charity has provided services, training and support which has helped thousands of blind veterans regain their independence and enjoy success in areas ranging from business and politics to sport and the entertainment industry.
“It is important health professionals working in the sight loss sector are aware of the comprehensive support and services offered by Blind Veterans UK and refer veterans with severe sight loss to the charity. Blind Veterans UK supports veterans regardless of how long they served or how they lost their sight – it could be due to old age, illness or accident. I am extremely proud to be a trustee for Blind Veterans UK and its 100 year history of outstanding services and support.”
For 100 years, Blind Veterans UK has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to vision impaired veterans to help them go on to lead full, independent lives and in many cases, excel in areas such as work, education and sport.
As the charity celebrates 100 years of outstanding achievements by the ex-Service men and women it supports in 2015, it is looking forward to continuing and developing its work during its second century of service.
As the survey also identified areas where there is still room for improvement in the public’s views, however, Blind Veterans UK knows that there is still work to be done. Half (50%) of those surveyed disagree that a blind person would be able to do the same job as well as a sighted person, and just under half (49%) believe that they could no longer participate in sport if they were to lose their sight.
Blind Veterans UK’s Chief Executive, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: “We’re extremely pleased that the public’s perception of blindness has improved, but we also know that that there is still more to be done.
‘Blind Veterans UK currently supports over 4,000 blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women, and as we enter our next century of service we want to ensure that every blind veteran in the UK has the support they need to realise their ambitions and discover a life beyond sight loss.”
Throughout 2015, Blind Veterans UK is celebrating its 100th birthday with over 100 national and local events throughout the year – for more information, visit www.blindveterans.org.uk.
YouGov carried out online interviews in December 2014 with 2,064 adults (18+) across the UK, 98% of who were fully sighted.