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Blindness and Visual Impairment in Asia

Various Photographers


Research data published by the Lancet Global Health journal showed that there were 36 million blind people in 2015 and more than 216 million having moderate to severe visual impairment in the world. Projections from the research showed that if the increment remains constant, then there would be 38.5 million blind people by the year 2020, and more than 114 million by the year 2050, with changes mostly due to rise in population and global ageing. The Asian region was found to have the highest rates of blindness with 11.7 million people in south Asia, 6.2 million in east Asia and 3.5 million in southeast Asia.


In low income areas, treatment for various causes of visual impairment is not as widely available and many have to rely on foundations and government support. In China, a country estimated to have the largest amount of blind people, The Lifeline Express, a non-profit organization started in Hong Kong and inspired by the original Lifeline Express from India, runs a rainbow-colored hospital train that offers free cataract surgeries to patients in remote and poverty-stricken areas in China.


According to World Health Organization (WHO), chronic eye diseases are the main cause of vision loss worldwide and un-operated cataract is the leading cause of blindness in low income countries, while 80 percent of all vision impairment can be prevented or cured. People who remain untreated or have incurable visual impairment have to come to terms and live with lack of vision. Local communities organize activities and event to give support to people in order to cope with blindness. Those who have had their eyes removed in surgery or lost due to an accident, can take comfort in having an ocular prosthesis made, which replaces the natural eye.


Several job opportunities are available for people with vision impairment. One of the common job opportunities for the blind in Asia is massage therapy, with many institutions teaching massage to the visually impaired, where they are praised for their increased sensitivity to touch. Some institutions provide further education in a variety of fields including sales, agriculture, handicrafts and business. Several sports are being adapted for the blind, such as blind soccer, where players are able to navigate on the field with the help of sound cues from the ball and other players and is part of the Paralympic Sports.


Education for the visually impaired is important for helping the visually impaired to fit into society, with many foundations and educational establishments providing special programs to teach necessary skills for quality of life improvement. Some institutions offer full time courses starting from kindergarten to higher education, while others provide programs for children of kindergarten age to prepare them to be integrated into standard classrooms for students with normal vision.