About Blindness

There are around 188,000 people in Scotland affected with significant sight loss, with this figure set to double by 2031.

According to the NPC / RS Macdonald report on visual impairment in Scotland:

  • Three out of every four people with sight loss on Scotland are aged over 65.
  • There are around 8,000 registered blind or partially sighted people of working age in Scotland.
  • There are around 2,500 children and young people with a visual impairment in Scotland.

What causes blindness?

Less than 10% of people are blind from birth, which is known as congenital blindness. There are several potential causes of congenital blindness:

  • An inherited condition
  • Premature birth
  • Infection during pregnancy
  • Injury during birth
  • Defect in the eye or brain.

There are many contributory factors that can lead to sight loss in life, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Untreated diabetes
  • Diet
  • Accidents
  • Cancer
  • Injuries to the brain
  • Age Related Macular Degeneration
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts.

In the developing world there are other factors that can contribute to sight loss. Read more on the Sightsavers website.

Living with sight loss

Losing your sight can be very frightening and stressful.

Education experts say that 80 percent of what a child learns at school is through visually presented information. Difficulties at school, from learning to read to understanding fractions, are often caused by sight problems.

For adults that lose their sight in later life, it can be very distressing as they feel they are no longer able to enjoy some of the activities they love to do, such as reading, cooking and sightseeing. Mobility can be affected, and with that comes independence and travel. Imagine no longer being able to see your loved ones, your pets, your house and garden.

Computer technology and specialist equipment for independent living can assist people with sight loss. Audio books enable people to enjoy books in different formats. Documents can be transcribed into large print, audio or braille by the Scottish Braille Press and other providers. Special schools like the Royal Blind School have highly trained staff and facilities to educate and care for blind children. 

Support from charities and other organisations

Charities and local authorities are able to offer support and care for visually impaired people. View a list of organisations in Scotland on The Scottish Council on Visual Impairment’s website

Royal Blind provides a range of services for visually impaired people. We are based in Edinburgh. Our sister charity, Scottish War Blinded, provides support across Scotland to ex-service personnel who have lost their sight, either in conflict or subsequently.

RNIB’s website provides resources and information about living with sight loss.

Definitions of sight loss

Visual impairment:

  • Visual impairment covers people that have some residual vision as well as those who have no sight at all. A visual impairment means that the person has a degree of sight loss that cannot be corrected with spectacles.


  • Legislation defines blindness as the condition of being unable to do any work for which eyesight is essential. To be registered blind a person would need to be tested. 

Partial sight loss:

  • There is no legal definition for partial sight loss. To be registered as partially sighted, a person needs to have a substantial and permanent defect in their vision. This could be caused by illness, injury or a defect.