The number of visually impaired individuals around the world is staggering. It is not just staggering in quantity, though that could be reason enough, but it is also staggering because there are so many people considered blind that only need one thing that many people take for granted: glasses.
Vision impairment affects individuals on very minute levels, but it also is affecting the entire community on a global level. In Asia, where many countries are starting to come forward in the world as powerful countries, such as China and Japan, the numbers are also saddening.
The Numbers of the Needlessly Blind
Though the numbers change from source to source, most people agree that the number of individuals that are visually impaired significantly is over 280 million. These 280 million people are without proper vision, and most are without the ability to reach medical care to correct it. Out of those hundreds of millions, ninety million are South Eastern Asians.
Out of the ninety million, and out of the 280 million, most of the individuals are unable to see simply due to refractive error. Refractive error, which is also known as “needlessly blind”, is vision loss due to the lack of glasses. These individuals are referred to as “needlessly blind” because, while they do have significant impairment visually, most of it can be easily corrected by having access to vision exams and glasses.
In South East Asia, like with most countries with large amounts of severely visually impaired individuals, there are many developing nations, nations where communities are spread out far and wide and the ability to go hundreds of miles to see a doctor is something not possible for many people. Also, these individuals in Asia might be unable to pay for the doctor, even if they are able to get to him or her.
The Impact of These Numbers
The inability to see, or the inability to see well, can impact a person’s life greatly. In fact, there are clear links between one’s inability to see and social class. Starting from grade school, where students are expected to read off of boards twenty or thirty feet in front of them or from a book inches away from their nose, and going all the way through to employment opportunities, all are affected by one’s ability to see properly. If an individual cannot see at the same level as the individuals around him or her, that leads to decreased involvement and opportunities and will then lead to a decrease in social mobility. Many individuals in South East Asia are suffering from the lack of eye care, starting with a large amount of students not attending school due to lack of vision.
While the effects are obvious on an individual level, there are also effects on a global scale. Like mentioned before, when individuals cannot see, their opportunities begin to decrease, which means that, whichever community that man or woman is in will also suffer because it will lose a participant within the society. That means a decrease in any growth that the person could have brought to the table. When more and more individuals from each community start to have the same problem, it only means a greater amount of individuals unable to push their society in the way that other individuals are able to do. One foundation, the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation, found that there is an incredibly large global cost to the lack of vision worldwide: nearly $270 billion each year. That is many developing nations losing out on millions, possibly billions, of dollars each year all because they have “needlessly blind” individuals within their country. If South East Asia, outside of the industrialized parts of China and Japan, there are many developing nations losing out on their chances to grow and progress as a nation.
While the visually impaired are costing over $270 billion each year because of lack of participation, it would cost only a ninth of that to give the visually impaired, the needlessly blind, proper eye care to help them participate within the society.