Sobering Job Stats for Adults with Blindness or Low Vision 

Two people, one wearing eyeglasses, use a computer in an office

Approximately 8.7 million people between 18 and 64 report blindness and low vision in response to the question, “Are you blind, or do you have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses?”.  Of these, 43.6% say they work. 10.5% say they are out of work. Additionally, 28.9% say they are unable to work. The remaining population includes 8.1% homemakers, 3.9% students, and 5.1% retirees.

These numbers vary greatly from individuals of working age who are not blind or have low vision: 70.4% work .5.9% are out of work. 6.3% say they are unable to work.) (Big Data Project Working Age Adults – VisionServe Alliance

The Study 

These startling and concerning statistics came from a recent report undertaken by VisionServe Alliance (VSA) and conducted by Dr. Dean VanNasdale and Dr. John Crews. The data was taken from the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the American Community Survey.  

The study aimed to understand the social, economic, and health characteristics of people aged 18 to 64 who report blindness and low vision. Likewise, it aimed to understand the prevalence of chronic conditions, quality of life, and disability characteristics. With this information, the vocational rehabilitation system will have crucial national and state-by-state data to develop policies and strategies to address workforce participation disparities. 

Key Findings 

  • Education:  Sixty-one percent of working-aged people with vision impairment, compared with 38.8% of people without vision impairment, report having a high school degree or less. 
  • Chronic Conditions:  Individuals who are blind/low vision are more likely than those without vision impairment to report serious chronic conditions. Conditions include hearing impairment (16.2% vs. 3.4%), diabetes (19.5% vs. 7.2%), depression (41.3% vs. 19.3%), kidney disease (7.1% vs. 1.9%), and stroke (9.1% vs. 1.8%). It is important to remember that vision changes can be a secondary condition associated with diabetes, stroke, and kidney disease.  
  • Excess Disability: People who are blind/low vision report greater difficulty walking/climbing stairs (40.7% vs. 8.9%), Additionally, they report difficulty running errands (29.2% vs. 5.5%). 
  • Income:  People who are blind/have low vision and work report low household incomes. 36% of people working for wages and 47% of those self-employed report household incomes of less than $25,000.   

Interested in More information? 

You can obtain the national report for free. The prevalence of vision impairment and other variables can vary greatly from state to state. Individual state reports provide state and county-level data. The information can be used for planning for service delivery, policy decisions, and advocacy efforts. 

VSA offers available state reports for $250 (thanks to sponsors and partners for those states). Reports for California, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin are currently available on the VSA website. Indiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Arkansas reports are coming soon. If your state is not listed, email [email protected]about how to purchase. 

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