One of the biggest reasons you should install the UserWay widget is to help users who suffer from blindness or vision loss to use your website. The widget includes modifications like enlarging the text and changing the contrast of the screen, which can be extremely helpful to users who cannot see well. However, a common question website owners have is just how many users need these modifications?

What Constitutes Vision Loss?

Vision loss and blindness can impact anyone at any time. While there really is not a concrete definition or set of guidelines that help to categorize people with vision loss, the definition of blindness is clear. The National Federation Of The Blind explains, “The statutory definition of “legally blind” is that central visual acuity must be 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction or that the visual field must be 20 degrees or less.”[1] This definition is well accepted, and gives people an idea of what it means to be blind.

However, the somewhat nebulous concept of vision loss without blindness is much harder to understand. Vision loss is a much broader issue and can come in many forms depending on the person, their age, and what type of eye condition they have. No matter what the factors, vision loss can cause a myriad of issues that present themselves differently in each person. Some sufferers will also have symptoms that vary from day to day making their sight capabilities a moving target that causes unreliable visual acuity.

Vision Loss Impacts Millions

It might seem like vision loss and blindness are rare occurrences. This is an incorrect assumption, and you will probably find it surprising just how prevalent vision loss and blindness is across the globe. The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) shows just how many people in America alone experience vision loss, “16.4 million American adults between the ages of 18 and 64 and 7.3 million American adults 65 years and older report experiencing significant vision loss.”[2]  Remember, that is just in America alone.

Women Are More Susceptible

You might think that it is a fairly even split with men and women suffering from vision loss at the same rate. However, interestingly this is just not true. Again, we can turn to the AFB for details, “Of these 23.7 million American adults, 14.4 million women and 9.3 million men report experiencing significant vision loss.”[3]

This gender disparity while initially surprising, can be explained fairly easily. VisionAware gives a breakdown of four big factors that lead to women losing their vision that I will paraphrase below. Please visit their helpful post More Women Than Men Have Vision Loss to learn all of the facts.

  1. Women have longer lifespans, and are thus more likely to develop age-related eye conditions.
  2. Women are more prone to develop certain eye conditions due to hormones and biological factors.
  3. Women are sometimes subject to poor availability of healthcare depending on where they live and how much they earn.
  4. As with everyone, lifestyle and external factors can contribute to vision loss.[5]

The US National Library of Medicine published a paper on the subject in 2009 titled, Why are we addressing gender issues in vision loss?, by Paul Courtright and Susan Lewallen. Interestingly, they arrived at similar conclusions and illuminated the issue brought up in point 3 above by stating, “Women’s responsibilities as child care providers often make it difficult for them to leave home and travel to where eye care is available.”[6] While excellent healthcare might be available, it does not necessarily mean that women will be able to access it.

Visual impairment and blindness can impact everyone regardless of gender, however it is important for women to realize they are at an increased risk. It is important for women to understand their risks and the impact that vision loss can have on the rest of their lives. There are currently many organizations working to reach out to women who are at risk and help to educate them on ways to prevent vision loss and maintain the health of their eyes.

Still, it is fairly apparent that this issue is ongoing and will require a lot of time and attention in order to effectively decrease the number of sufferers, no matter their gender. Additionally, as with many medical conditions, the chances of completely eradicating vision loss is relatively impossible. Instead, it is important to educate people on health concerns, help them prevent issues when possible, and work to lessen the negative impact that vision loss may have on their lives.

Change Is Necessary

The numbers don’t lie. Across the world, there are millions of people with either temporary or permanent vision issues. While the proportion isn’t evenly divided between men and women, it still impacts a huge percentage of the population and needs to be addressed. There are many things that can be done to reduce the hardship that living with vision loss can cause. Paying attention to the way things are designed, and incorporating inclusive features is certainly one of them. Making the physical and digital world universally accessible and leveling the playing field can make things much simpler for the large portion of people who are impacted by vision loss.

Since the UserWay widget does not require website owners to modify the site’s code, it is a simply way to assist users with vision problems without having to overhaul your entire site. Installing the UserWay widget, complying with WCAG 2.0, and working to make your website universally accessible is an important way to ensure you are allowing all of your users to maximize the information they get from your site.