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UK Coaching Team

What Is a Visual Impairment?

Everybody experiences sight loss in different ways. It is always better to ask! This section of the toolkit covers some of the common sight conditions


Depending on the severity of their vision loss, people will be either registered as sight impaired or severely sight impaired (which is also known as blind). The terms "blind" and "partially sighted" are more generally used in every day conversations.

However, how someone chooses to describe themselves in relation to their eye condition is very individual and the term they use will depend on their personal preference.

Everyone is different and manages their sight loss condition in a unique way. Sight loss can vary significantly. This includes total blindness, better vision in light or dark areas, long distance and short distance, and that's just highlighting a few!

Never make assumptions of what people can and cannot see, as each blind and partially sighted person's background to sight loss is different.


Asking questions such as "Can you describe what you can see to help me understand how I can best guide you?" or "What can I do to support you?" are a great way to start the conversation.

Common Sight Conditions

The following videos simulate what someone with the four most common sight conditions may see and how to best support and guide them around your leisure facility.

Diabetic Retinopathy

This is a complication between diabetes which damages the tiny blood vessels that deliver blood to the retinas. This condition can cause blindness if left undiagnosed and untreated. Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy include blurring of the vision and ‘blind spots’ or  ‘floaters’, appearing on certain parts of the retina.

Play the video to see how Simon is guided around the facility by Kelly who is a member of staff at the leisure centre. 

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)

Retinal Dystrophies is the name given to a group of inherited eye conditions, of which RP is one. These conditions cause a slow loss of vision, beginning with night vision and peripheral (side) vision and eventually affecting central, colour and reading vision.

Play the video to simulate this eye condition, as Scott navigates a weights section of the gym. 


This is a common eye condition in which the lens inside the eye gradually become less transparent with age.  Over time, a cataract can worsen, making vision become cloudier, but it is usually treatable with a fairly simple operation. Cataracts cause an overall blurring and haziness to vision. It often appears as though everything is out of focus.

Play the video to see how Rich navigates a swimming pool with cataracts. 

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD does not cause complete loss of sight. It affects central vision, which can become distorted and blurry. Eventually a black patch may appear. This lack of central vision makes reading, recognising faces or watching television more difficult.

Play the video to see how Sidney is able to access the gym with the assistance of his guide dog Jay, along with Lucy, a member of facility staff. 

Sight Conditions Resource

Click the link below to find out more about sight loss and conditions.

Access The Resource


Remember that everybody experiences sight loss in different ways. It is always better to ask

Click here to download and check out our key messages resource for some helpful tips.

Registering Sight Loss

Did you know that not everybody who is visually impaired registers their sight impairment, mainly due to the associated stigma?

Why should we encourage people to register their sight loss?

Being registered as sight impaired or severely sight impaired requires a person to receive the Certificate of Visual Impairment (CVI). The CVI has three main functions:

  • It qualifies a person to be registered with their local council as sight impaired (partially sighted) or severely sight impaired (blind).
  • It lets the person's local council know about their sight loss. They have a duty to contact people to offer registration and to see if they need help with day-to-day tasks.
  • The CVI records important information about the cause of sight loss. It helps the NHS to identify any trends in certain eye conditions, as well as helping with planning services.

Related Learning

eLearning Course

Gain a deeper understanding of how to coach people with a visual impairment, developed by UK Coaching and British Blind Sport

Enrol Now

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Navigate back to the main toolkit page for Inclusive Facilities: Supporting People With a Visual Impairment


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UK Coaching Team