February 7, 2020

Visually impaired? Blind? Let’s talk about it

- Future In Sight

paper cut out in the shape of people with a blind person in the middle

The words we choose convey meaning beyond their Webster definitions. And, the way we arrange those words in our thoughts, as well as spoken and written communication, has an impact on how we are understood – or misunderstood. Thinking about how our words are received by the reader or listener is not just considerate, it’s a foundation of effective communication.

At Future In Sight, we think a lot about the words we choose

Affirming, strength-based, person-first language is our standard. We serve infants, children, teens, and adults of all ages who are blind or vision-impaired, making an impact on nearly 5,000 lives last year alone, with 13% more new referrals than the prior year. We are pleased with our outreach; we are prouder still of the milestones made by those we serve.

We have much more to do

If we are to thoroughly fulfill our mission – our charge – we must first reach the 32,000+ people in New Hampshire who are living with profound vision loss.  Then, we can serve them.  Then, we can be instrumental in helping them transform their lives through education, specialized training, and support from our team. But, reaching them – reaching you – is the first step.

What does this have to do with word choices and phrasing?  Everything

Searching on the internet (using Google) is the number one way people find what they are looking for.  This includes finding the products and services that we provide at Future In Sight. It is up to us, to be relevant and easy to find when people with visual impairments are seeking services that we can help them with. In order to reach the broadest audience, our website needs to contain written content that matches the words and terms that people are searching for.

People don’t necessarily search how they speak

What we have discovered is, although we are very conscious of how we discuss topics and always use “person first” language, there are many people out in the world who don’t necessarily “search” that way. Here are some examples of search terms that people use and the average number of searches per month:

Services for the Blind

  • services for people who are blind” has a reported average of 10 searches per month
  • services for the blind”  has a reported average of 1000 searches per month
  • people with vision impairments”  is not searched often enough to register on the Google report
  • services for visually impaired adults” has a reported volume of 170 searches per month

We at Future In Sight choose to use person-first language: People who are blind.  People with vision impairments. Children with vision loss.  The general public looking for help often searches for: blind services.

So, in some places on our website, you may occasionally see phrasing that reflects what people, or their family members, who are looking for help after vision loss most frequently type into their search engine.  It’s intentional. It’s not our preference, but it is practical so that folks can find us and we can reach more people.

Changing the Conversation

Let’s all keep working on helping others to shift language and conversation to person-first language.  Words really do matter.