Study: More than Half of all Americans are not Comfortable Around a Person Who is Blind

First-ever Perkins School for the Blind study shows how the sighted population’s misperceptions lead to widespread exclusion

Complex infographic shows statistics on how people who are sighted feel discomfort, pity, and fear that stigmatizes blindness.

Attitudes about people who are blind are revealed in a new study that forms the impetus for the BlindNewWorld social change campaign. View and download infographic below.

May 5, 2016

WATERTOWN, MA (May 5, 2016) – Perkins School for the Blind today released its first-ever national study examining how the sighted view people who are blind. “America’s Blind Spot: What’s Preventing us from Including those who are Blind in Our Sighted World?” reveals that despite being such a large population in the U.S. – an estimated seven million Americans – people who are blind are largely excluded from society, leading to massive barriers to finding meaningful employment and living independently.

Researchers found that although the public champions the blind population in theory, many people doubt the capabilities of people who are blind. That doubt fosters stereotyping that perpetuates marginalization. For example, only 28 percent think a person who is blind could do the respondent’s job – a perception that contributes to only 40 percent of people who are blind being employed according to Disability Statistics from the 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

Additionally, minimal interaction between the sighted population and their peers who are blind results in a lack of understanding, preventing social progress. For instance, 55 percent of respondents have not seen a person who is blind in the past year and only 34 percent know someone who is blind. The study also uncovered that misperceptions of the blind community give rise to four barriers to inclusion – discomfort, pity, fear and stigma.

“To many, the blind population is non-existent,” said Dave Power, President and CEO of Perkins School for the Blind. “Furthermore, people who are blind are being excluded from a sighted world. Despite significant societal progress, individuals who are blind aren’t being afforded the same access to opportunities as the rest of the population. We hope that increasing awareness changes all of that.”

Additional findings from the study include:

  • 80 percent of respondents feel sorry for those who are blind, a sentiment that leads to assumptions that prevent the sighted world from embracing their peers who are blind into society
  • 74 percent of respondents do not think they could be happy if they lost their vision, projecting their emotions onto a condition they know little about
  • 46 percent of respondents cannot think of a condition worse than being blind, even compared to terminal illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer’s
  • 82 percent of respondents do not think a person who is blind can play sports, while 81 percent think someone who is blind is not capable of babysitting and 70 percent think people who are blind cannot shop for clothes, illustrating how the overwhelming population believes the blind population cannot do everyday activities

The study, conducted in January 2016 by the research firm Research Now, included responses from 1,000 Americans with near equal representation across generations and regions of the country.

To help illuminate the issue and drive societal inclusion of the blind, Perkins School for the Blind is sponsoring BlindNewWorld, a social change campaign (see separate release issued today entitled: “Perkins School for the Blind Launches BlindNewWorld, a Campaign Promoting Blind Inclusion in a Sighted World”).

About Perkins School for the Blind
Perkins School for the Blind was founded in 1829 and is where Helen Keller challenged and dramatically changed society’s perceptions of individuals with disabilities. Today, in addition to educating students on its Watertown campus and throughout Massachusetts, Perkins is the leading global enterprise dedicated to advancing the lives of the young blind population through education, accessibility and innovation. A renowned leader in deafblind education, the organization also manufactures the world’s braillers, provides accessibility solutions for organizations and educates all teachers on how to help blind children realize their full potential. Learn more at Perkins.org.

Contact:
Nathan Mellor
InkHouse for Perkins School for the Blind
T: 781.966.4151
E: nathan@inkhouse.com

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Infographic: 1. Discomfort. 53% of sighted people say they are not comfortable around people who are blind. That’s because the blind population has been so marginalized we rarely see them. 2. Stigma. Just 28% think a person who is blind can do their job. Stigmas like these shut the door on equal opportunity. 3. Pity. 80% feel sorry for those who are blind. This staggering amount of pity can lead to assumptions that prevent the sighted world from inclusion of the blind community. 4. Fear. 74% don’t think they could be happy if they lost their vision. This perspective projects emotions onto a condition the sighted know little about, forming assumptions and creating roadblocks where none may need to exist. 35% don’t believe their community is inclusive for the blind population, while an additional 38% do not even know. Discover simple ways to make a difference at BlindNewWorld.org. Methodology: Research Now conducted a nationwide online panel with a random sample size of 1,000 respondents. The sample included equal representation between males and females with specific quotas on age and geography to achieve a near equal representation from GenZ/Millenials, GenX and Baby Boomers in the Midwest, Northeast, South and West regions of the country. The survey was conducted between Jan. 12 and Jan. 15, 2016. For the purposes of this study, the definition for the term “blind” refers to individuals who are blind or have serious difficulty seeing, even with corrective lenses.

Download attitudes about people who are blind infographic »