Visual impairment or blindness is a sensory disability where the level of impairment varies greatly. Some people are born with no vision or significantly reduced vision. Visual impairment can also result from a number of diseases, disorders and injuries. There are currently over 14,000 people using the services offered by the National Council for the Blind. Of this figure, more than half (58%) are over retirement age. People of working age, 18-65 years of age, amount to 34% and 8% are children up to the age of 17 years. The NCBI has found that 80% of those registered as blind have usable residual vision, i.e. vision remaining after disease, accident or as a result of ageing. For some, vision loss is sudden, while for others it may be gradual. Some conditions, diabetes, for example, cause vision to fluctuate from day to day.
It is estimated that 17% of the Irish population have some sort of hearing loss, ranging from a mild to a profound loss. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may have speech and hearing difficulties combined. This communication impairment can have an impact on personal, social, educational and business situations. People with language and speech disabilities also include those with a stammer, stroke and dysphasia.