Meaghan Schaefer & Sarah Wex

Seeing Blindness: Exploring Perception of Blindness and Partial Blindness

Authors: Sarah Wex, Meaghan Schaefer, Laura Bulk, & Dr. Tal Jarus

Introduction.  People who are blind/partially blind face occupational injustices rooted in ocularcentrism, a societal perspective whereby vision is considered to be of higher value than other senses, privileging those with full vision while disadvantaging those with visual impairments. The social model of disability posits that, while an individual may experience impairments, it is the social environment that is inherently disabling. Examining social perceptions can help identify stigma and misconceptions that contribute to occupational injustices such as unemployment, social isolation, and poverty. Objective. To explore societal perceptions of occupational participation and the capabilities of people who are blind/partially blind. Method.  The researchers conducted quantitative and qualitative research using a cross-sectional survey. Questions were developed in collaboration with an advisory committee, comprised of experts in the field of visual impairment, the majority of whom have lived experience. Survey data was collected from 368 participants and analyzed using quantitative software. Thematic analysis of qualitative survey data was conducted by the research team. Practice Implications. Examining societal perceptions of blindness/partial blindness is a critical first step in seeking to increase participation in meaningful occupation for people who are blind/partially blind. Conclusion. This study identifies societal perceptions of blindness/partial blindness to address misconceptions and facilitate greater opportunities for occupational participation This study contributes to a body of research providing opportunities for future efforts to reshape societal perceptions of blindness/partial blindness, enabling more full and inclusive participation.