Worldwide, 285 million people are visually impaired; 39 million are
blind and 246 million have low vision. An estimated 500 000 children
become blind each year, but in developing countries up to 60% are
thought to die within a year of becoming blind.
How blindness starts
Some people have been completely blind since birth, while others may
have dealt with a slowly declining vision for decades. The millions of
people who are blind or visually impaired all possess varying degrees
of sight and have vastly different needs and abilities related to
their sight loss.
Only 1-2% of visually impaired use a guide dog even though the
majority of dogs are provided free of charge. These service animals
are carefully trained to lead their owners around other people and
obstacles. The first guide dog was issued in 1916 to a blinded
veteran, Paul Feyen.
James Biggs of Bristol claimed to have invented the white cane in
1921. After an accident claimed his sight, the artist had to readjust
to his environment. Feeling threatened by increased motor vehicle
traffic around his home, Biggs decided to paint his walking stick
white to make himself more visible to motorists.
Being diagnosed as blind or partially sighted does not mean that a a
person has to give up on sports. In fact, there are many sports which
have been adapted for those who are blind or partially sighted, as
well as entirely new sports only open to people with a sight
Famous Blind People
Andrea Bocelli has been completely blind at age 12, one of the most
successful musicians of all time. On May 25, 2001, Erik Weihenmayer
became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Marla Runyan is the first legally blind athlete to compete in the
Olympics. Trischa Zorn, blind since birth, has won 55 medals, making
her the most successful athlete in the history of the Paralympic