Blind people need €45 a week extra for basic standard of living

Health, communications and household items more costly for visually impaired

Elaine Howley, policy and advocacy director with the National Council for the Blind of Ireland: “Those of us who live with visual impairment incur extra costs every week so that we can just live ordinary lives.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Elaine Howley, policy and advocacy director with the National Council for the Blind of Ireland: “Those of us who live with visual impairment incur extra costs every week so that we can just live ordinary lives.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Blind people need an additional €45 a week just to enjoy a minimum standard of living, according to new research which for the first time quantifies the additional cost of living with sight impairment.

Health, communications and household service costs account for most of the 18 per cent gap in the costs incurred by a person with impaired vision and those with full sight.

A blind person needs almost €286 a week to be able to afford the additional goods and services for a minimum acceptable level of living, according to the research published today by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice.

The largest additional weekly cost for a single adult with vision impairment is health, which costs €11.54 extra per week and includes glasses, eye drops and sunglasses to counteract glare. This is followed by communication at €9.33 per week for access to a landline and broadband. Household services come in at an additional €7.69 per week.

“Vision impairment is often a hidden disability,” says Elaine Howley, policy and advocacy director with NCBI. “Those of us who live with it incur extra costs every week so that we can just live ordinary lives. Some of these costs are directly related to low vision, such as magnifiers, expensive lenses/sunglasses and eye drops.”

Household tasks

She added: “Other costs include taxis, where public transport is insufficient or non-existent, mobile phones and assistance with household tasks and personal care. While some of these costs are in themselves relatively low, the cumulative effect is that there are many people with impaired vision living in poverty in Ireland and who cannot fully participate in society or access the items and services they need.”

Financial independence is an important component of overall independence, according to Mary Treasa Cahill Kennedy, who has congenital cataracts.

“There are so many things I need in order to fully participate in work and socially and all this has a cost. I spend money on visual aids and technological aids and these are so expensive,” the former Fine Gael equality strategy manager from Dublin said.

“My lighting costs are high too as I need a lot more light than a person with full sight does. It all adds up . . . Juggling money is a financial drain and can be an emotional strain too.”

David Nason, a quality and compliance analyst with Sky, said: “It’s the things that other people take for granted that tend to cost me a lot more financially.

“For example, if I want to read my post I need a video magnifier and this is expensive,” he said.

“Electricity is a biggie as is the cost of the extra light bulbs I need. I like to cook and for this I have to pay more for a talking weighing scales. Technology is absolutely wonderful for people with impaired vision but I have to have a good mid-level phone to access the necessary software; it has to be reliable and, as ever, good quality generally equals a higher price tag,” says the 35-year-old from Stillorgan, who has retinitis pigmentosa.