There is “a profound lack of understanding” about the impact of sight loss on children’s lives, according to the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC).
A new survey commissioned by the charity has revealed that over a quarter of adults believe that blind children have different dreams and aspirations to their sighted peers.
A fifth of respondents did not know what effect being blind or visually impaired will have on a child’s life, and only 11% think that blindness makes it difficult for children to make friends. RSBC said that two out of five children have no local friends to play with.
The charity added that nine out of 10 blind children will not have a long-term job when they grow up and are more likely to live on or below the poverty line.
Chief executive of the RSBC, Dr Tom Pey, said: “The survey findings demonstrate a profound lack of understanding around what it means to grow up with sight loss.”
“Blind and visually impaired children tell us they have the same career ambitions and hopes for the future as their sighted friends, but it’s an uphill struggle for them to achieve their dreams,” he shared, adding: “Once they start to encounter the kind of prejudices and false assumptions reflected in our survey, their self-confidence starts to diminish and their mental wellbeing is impacted negatively.”
As a result of the survey, the RSBC has launched a new campaign, Every Blind Child, which aims to raise awareness of the real challenges faced by the children it supports.
The campaign will share the experiences of blind children, with the aim of ensuring that by 2020, 11,000 families will have access to a sight loss specialist who can offer emotional and practical support.
The charity has commissioned artwork by artist and poet Robert Montgomery, which will be unveiled at an event at Granary Square in London today (31 January). A custom-designed vehicle has been created, which incorporates poetry and a film installation of interviews with blind and visually impaired children who inspired the project.
Mr Montgomery said: “I chose to film them talking about their dreams to give an insight into their vivid and charming imaginations, and also because in a way we are all equal when we dream.”
Other findings from the survey revealed that 60% of people in employment said they have never come across a blind or visually impaired person at work. A total of 84% of respondents believe that there would be barriers to a visually impaired child achieving their dream job. And 52% believe that blind or visually impaired children will not be able to live alone, travel, cook or manage finances independently in adulthood.