Low vision is a form of visual impairment which is not complete blindness yet is so severe, it impedes a persons ability to perform everyday tasks.
Low vision is a very serious condition because many people are born with it and do not know they have it until its way past the age of easy correction. Some people think that’s how they are meant to be. For many, especially here in Africa, their families think they are pretending and sometimes children get punished for not doing their chores effectively – until the impairment gets discovered. Others get low vision due to injuries, illnesses such as glaucoma, trachoma, diabetes, conjunctivitis and many others.
Christian Blind Mission, is the world’s largest international non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities living in the world’s most disadvantaged societies. Their vision is to create an inclusive world in which all people with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential.
CBM UK has supported programmes that deal in vision support in Kenya for over 20 years and it has built one of the best eye care hospitals in Western Kenya, Sabatia Eye Hospital.
We went to collect imagery to accompany case studies of children and adults who are accessing low-vision / eye health services at Sabatia Eye Hospital. We would combine documenting the lives of individuals at home and in the community, and at the hospital.
Joy Omutoko used to bump into her school mates because she couldn't judge distances. She also could not see the blackboard in class and as a result, her grades were very poor. The was provided with glasses and a reading telescope and she is able to even walk home by herself after school. Her class teacher is very happy for her.
"Joy is extremely curious and very attentive. Those are traits you see in very smart children but her eyesight used to let her down. I know she will catch up with everyone else in no time"
Joy Okwisa is just a huge bundle of energy! She suffered from hydrocephalus as a child and it affected her eyesight. Despite this, she plows through LV with so much gusto! She was excited to show us her drawing skills.
However, her mother also told us of the sadness she has been through as a result of LV. She has been teased by other children, so much so that she has talked about not wanting to live.
Barack cannot remember when he could see clearly. He has always had issues with his eyesight and he remembers his elder siblings also all having one issue or another. His eyesight has steadily deteriorated to the point that he could not pursue his dream job of being a driver and retired early to work on his farm. "I think what I miss most is watching the English Premier League! What makes me mad is the fact that there is a lot of help for children living with low vision but adults often get overlooked yet we're suffering too."
Christine suffered from LV for such a long time that her self esteem was extremely low. She was not very trusting and kept to herself so much even her friends were worried about her. She had been moved to the front of her class but still struggled with seeing the blackboard. She had very poor grades. Upon assessment, she was determined to have no vision in one eye and low vision in another. She was given special corrective glasses and a magnifier to help her read.
Joshua was lucky. His father noticed quite early that he was having trouble reading and took him to Sabatia Eye Hospital for examination where they were able to diagnose his condition quickly and help him with corrective eyewear. His father, a mason and a pastor, values education above all else.
"I was an orphan. I had no one to help me through life and I have struggled to make something of myself. My children need an education to become bigger and better than I could ever be."
Having low vision is a complex problem but fortunately, for most people, there are ways to help them accomplish their daily activities. Unlike total blindness, most individuals with low vision have some useful sight. But, as vision deteriorates, those affected often find it difficult to accomplish the tasks of everyday life — such as reading, recognizing faces, cooking, driving, and differentiating color.
CBM provides low vision aids such as magnifying glasses, high-powered eye glasses, loupes, telescopes or special computer devices to help provide some level of functional vision. Providing these items, along with training, allow children with low vision – even children with less than 10% of their vision – to be integrated into schools. Adults can go from functional blindness to functional sight.