Basic blind and visual impairment terminology to get you started
Except where specified otherwise, these definitions of blindness and visual impairment services terminology are mine and mine alone. While it is tempting to write definitions from Google searches, I wanted to make the information specific to blindness and visual impairment, both of which are defined below.
ADL: Activities for Daily Living – these are the tasks a sighted person takes for granted such as doing the laundry or dishes, selecting an outfit, compliantly taking medicine, preparing a meal, etc.
Assistive Technology: See also Enabling Technology. This typically refers to smartphone apps and other technology which assists someone who is PBVI with ADL’s. There are smartphone apps which detect colors & paper currency denominations, provide navigational assistance, provide text magnification, etc.
Blindness: See also Visual Impairment. Blindness and visual impairment are often used somewhat interchangeably as the boundaries aren’t always clear cut. For my purposes, I tend to think of blindness as a very low level of functional vision, perhaps no more than light sensitivity or enough vision to see the gross shape of objects. No amount of text magnification would make printed material readable.
Caregiver: See also Caretaker. Caregivers invest time, money, and emotion helping a friend or loved one manage loss of sight. The support might be as simple as listening but it can become much more, from managing finances and schedule to assisting with all ADL’s. Caregiving is what someone who has lost their sight desires – assistance with things they can no longer readily accomplish but not coddling or “babying”.
Caretaker: See also Caregiver. Caretakers invest time, money, and emotion helping a friend or loved one manage loss of sight. The support might be as simple as listening but it can become much more, from managing finances and schedule to assisting with all ADL’s. It is distinguished from caregiving as most people who have lost their sight don’t want someone hovering over them or cautioning them every time they try something new. Their goal is to live as normal a life as possible and to receive help when required but not be viewed as helpless.
Differently-abled: This is my preferred term for people with disabilities and acknowledges that a disability often makes someone different, not deficient. Two examples include a personal favorite of having someone who is blind at your side when the lights go out; for them, nothing will have changed and they’ll be able to help you navigate. One other example is from my blog, when it was demonstrated that people who were blind were better at detecting very small breast tumors than doctors or women conducting a self-exam. (see this link http://edhenkler.com/disabilities-vs-different-abilities/).
Employment Specialist: This individual works with the person who has lost their sight to ensure they know how to use technology such as JAWS which will enable them to re-join the workforce. They will also work with potential employers to ensure that appropriate accommodations are in place for an effective engagement. Lastly, they will work with the hiring manager and departmental staff as necessary to ensure that everyone is comfortable with how to interact. This is an essential function as both parties are likely to be initially uncomfortable and just a bit of guidance can help immeasurably.
Enabling Technology: See also Assistive Technology. This typically refers to smartphone apps and other technology which assists someone who is blind or visually-impaired with ADL’s. There are smartphone apps which detect colors & paper currency denominations, provide navigational assistance, provide text magnification, etc.
Haptics: Straight from Wikipedia, Haptics is the science of applying touch (tactile) sensation and control to interaction with computer applications. One familiar example is when your phone is set on vibrate. My addition is that Haptics are being used increasingly in enabling technology solutions, including canes that vibrate when you’re approaching an impediment or shoes which vibrate on one side or the other to tell the wearer which way to turn.
O&M Instructor: Orientation refers to the task of navigating to a destination, including knowing when to turn, how to count blocks, doors, corridors, or whatever feature is available. When you’re sighted, you look at the street sign (or room number). Dependent on your level of visual impairment, that may not be an option. Mobility is the other task that most of us take for granted. It includes negotiating steps, escalators, elevators, curbs, etc. Both skills are required to travel independently and it is my understanding that new students are often so stressed (mentally and emotionally) with the Mobility task that they forget the Orientation aspect. This has nothing to do with having a good sense of direction. An O&M Instructor must have a Masters-level certification.
Technology Teacher: These teachers are more likely to be visually-impaired (in my limited experience) and I believe that helps them interact more effectively with a new student. Their descriptions are from the perspective of someone who is blind and they are also often more patient with a person who is new to impaired vision. Although they can assist with a variety of devices, their focus tends to be on software and other more complex technology solutions.
Person-first Language: The phrasing can initially be difficult but you always want to place modifiers such as blind after person rather than vice-versa. Perhaps an example will help. It is easiest to say “a blind person” but person-first language suggests you should say “a person who is blind”. Blindness is an aspect of their humanity but it doesn’t segment and categorize them. This concept arose in disability discussions but is applicable in so many other settings.
Visual Impairment: See also Blindness. Often used interchangeably with Blindness but really represents someone with residual vision. They may be legally blind (best corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye or with field of vision limitations) but they can read printed material if sufficiently magnified.
Vision Rehabilitation Instructor: The Vision Rehab instructor teaches someone who has lost their vision how to complete many of the activities for daily living that a sighted person takes for granted. These activities can include re-learning meal preparation, laundry, personal care, and other similar skills. One example may clarify their role. Vision rehabilitation instructors will visit the client’s home and use puffy (or dimensional) paint to identify a few oven temperatures and microwave settings. They’ll teach them to pour liquids (hot and cold), prepare and consume food, and the list goes on and on. Similar to the O&M Instructor, this is a Masters-level certification.