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Research finds Galway’s visually impaired at a financial disadvantage

IT costs 18% more per week for people with sight loss to meet their minimum living requirements, according to new figures – a reality that directly impacts on the 2,623 people with visual impairments in Galway.

The findings were published in a study jointly carried out by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice.

That established that it costs €44.54 more per week for a person with impaired vision to have a minumun standard of living, a standard below which no one should be expected to live.

The largest additional costs relate to health, communication and household services.

Marian Moloney from Knocknacarra – a well-known advocate for people with visual impairments – welcomed the report, when she attended the launch last week.

“The research will be an important yardstick for policy makers on the issue for equity for people with sight loss,” she said.

“It does cost more; we have to spend money on things that sighted people would never have to consider like magnification for reading post and the like.

“This is a basic thing but we have a right to our privacy and independence and for the blind community this often equals to a higher price tag,” she added.

The report concluded that it costs €241.22 per week for someone with full vision to meet their minimum needs, while it costs a person with impaired vision an additional €44.54.

This is to afford the additional goods and services necessary to meet their physical, psychological and social needs at a minimum acceptable level, bringing the weekly cost up to €285.76.

The largest additional weekly cost for a single adult with vision impairment is in the health budget, which costs €11.54 extra per week and includes glasses, eye drops and sunglasses, to counteract glare, which is a problem for many people with low vision.

This is followed by communication at €9.33 per week.  Having access to a landline and broadband is a need rather than a luxury.  Household services come in at an additional €7.69 per week.

“Vision impairment is often a hidden disability”, said Elaine Howley, Director of Policy and Advocacy 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.

“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 cannot fully participate inn society or access the items and services they need.

“This research offers us an opportunity to explore, for the first time ever, how the needs of people with sigh  loss can be met so that they are not living below the MESL – the standard below which nobody should be expected to live,” she added.