Blind and Partially Sighted Elderly People






















Policy Statement on implementing the human and social rights of
older visually impaired people



INTRODUCTION

The Board of the European Blind Union (EBU), responding to EBU Resolution 96-10, on the situation of the elderly blind and partially sighted, asked the EBU Commission on Social Rights during the work period 1996-9, to consider what action may be taken to address the rights of older visually impaired people.

After consulting with the EBU Commission on the Activities of Elderly Blind and Visually Impaired People, the Commission on Social Rights prepared a policy statement on this subject. The statement was included in the Commission's Report to the 6th General Assembly in Prague in November 1999 and was endorsed by the Assembly.

The Commission on Human and Social Rights has re-structured this policy statement in consultation with the Commission on the Activities of Elderly Blind and Visually Impaired People.

The Board of EBU endorses this Policy Statement. The document draws attention to the basic human and social rights that are required by older people. These are of course additional to those human and social rights that should be available to visually impaired people whatever their age may be, though in some circumstances additional support is needed to ensure that older visually impaired people benefit from these rights.

The Board of EBU invites EBU Members to consider taking action to implement the contents of this Policy Statement.


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OBJECTIVE OF THE POLICY STATEMENT

The Statement is intended to :
    - Be used as a campaigning tool
    - Be used as a check list so that deficits in provision may readily be identified
    - Provide a basis for the development of national human and social rights policies and practices for older visually impaired people

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PROPOSED POLICY STATEMENT

There are seven key human and social rights that EBU members should campaign to establish for older visually impaired people. These are :
    The Right to Sight

    1.1 Preventing and arresting blindness is vital. Much can be learned from countries such as Italy, that have organised successful sight saving campaigns.

    1.2 Older visually impaired people should be assisted to optimise their residual sight through the application of low vision aids, sight training and environmental adaptation.


    The Right to Services and Benefits

    2.1 It is important for each country to determine present and future numbers of older visually impaired people if this is not known, and to develop a clear appreciation of their needs. This information is required to form a basis for campaigning to ensure that appropriate resources are deployed to provide necessary services and support for the increasing population of older visually impaired people.

    2.2 It is essential to draw the attention of government bodies, organisations providing services and members of the public to the needs of older visually impaired people.

    2.3 It is vitally important to both protect and build upon existing services and benefits for older visually impaired people. These will be under increasing pressure as the population of older people rises, and puts resources under increasing strain.

    2.4 Compensation for the costs attributable to visual impairment should be provided for all older visually impaired people.

    2.5 Rehabilitation services appropriate to their needs should be available to older visually impaired people. They should also receive the encouragement and facility to remain active.

    2.6 Standards and targets for service provision for older visually impaired people should be set and monitored, including feedback from service users.

    2.7 The United Nations Standard Rules for the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (UNSR) are relevant to the needs of older visually impaired people. Action should be taken to ensure that their implementation takes account of the requirements of this group. UNSR can also be used as a template to evaluate the efficacy of organisations and their services.

    2.8 The EBU Commission on the Activities of Elderly Blind and Visually Impaired People should work with colleagues on the WBU Committee on Vision Loss and Ageing in Campaigning on a European level.


    The Right to Equipment and Support

    3.1 The provision of equipment and personal support should be available to enable older visually impaired people to continue to live independent lives in the community.

    Organisations and manufacturers should ensure that all equipment meets standards necessary for older visually impaired persons to use them.

    3.2 The right to counselling/support for older people should include personal and emotional support at the time of sight loss.

    3.3 The needs of carers of older visually impaired people should be identified and addressed.


    The Right to be Cared For

    4.1 In societies where the traditional extended family structure makes it possible for older visually impaired people to choose to live together with their family with help and support, this should be encouraged.

    4.2 Governments should acknowledge that care and support of older visually impaired people by family members is desirable, but that the individuals should be compensated.

    4.3 Older visually impaired people should only be placed in institutional care where this is agreed by the person concerned and their carers as being in the best interests of that person.


    The Right to Social Inclusion

    5.1 Every effort should be made by organisations of and for visually impaired people to protect them from isolation and to ensure that society includes them fully and equally.


    The Right to Information

    6.1 Accurate and up-to-date information should be provided in a range of formats, including information about the provision of services.


    The Right to Participate in Decision Making

    7.1 Older visually impaired people have a right to participate in decision making at all levels, the family, community and society, and should be encouraged to do so.

    7.2 Organisations representing the interests of visually impaired people should take action to assist older visually impaired people to participate in decision making within their organisation.


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