The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) conducted a survey recently, asking 125 blind and visually impaired individuals to explain how the cost of living crisis was affecting them.
The cost of living crisis has become a focal point for the government and a point of concern for the public in recent months. Soaring energy bills and rising inflation has created an expensive and uncertain landscape for people across the country, however those with visual impairments seem to be suffering most at the hands of this crisis.
The findings of the survey found that blind and visually impaired individuals were experiencing higher food, energy and transport costs than non-blind people, as reported by an ONS study earlier this year. The RNIB survey found that 96% of blind and visually impaired people reported an increase in their gas and energy bills verses 79% of general population, 96% blind and visually impaired saw their food shops go up verses 90% of general population, and double the number of blind and visually impaired people verses general public reported more expensive public transport.
In addition to this, over two thirds of those surveyed said their economic situation had deteriorated over the past six months. Results also showed that more than one third of respondents go without basics such as food and heating, and more than two thirds are using less energy in their homes to save money.
Going without, or with less, energy could be – and it’s important not to say choice here as there really is no alternative for many – a dangerous step for a money stricken, visually impaired person to take. A 2015 study by the Thomas Pocklington Trust showed that bright and adjustable lighting was needed in the homes of visually impaired people to ‘allow for fluctuating eye conditions’ and reduce the chances of an accident taking place. If there is no adequate lighting in a home due to self-imposed energy restrictions, injuries could occur and daily tasks could be much harder to complete.
Blind and visually impaired people are not just reducing their energy use to alleviate the effects of the cost of living crisis. Sadly one respondent to the RNIB survey said: ‘I have a small bowl of cereal, then miss lunch and have something cheap in the evening like beans on toast. This is the only way I’m currently surviving. If costs increase and benefits don’t, I will not be able to eat or put the heating on during cold evenings. I am also taking less showers now which makes me feel dirty and uncomfortable.’
The government has provided some support, for both disabled and non-disabled individuals and families facing difficult times due to the crisis. A one-off £150 Cost of Living Payment was sent to eligible disabled benefit claimants on the 20th of September, however many including the RNIB are claiming this is not enough. With inflation at its highest in 40 years, currently reaching 10.10%, many are calling for benefits to increase in line with the current rate, instead of increasing by 3.10% as they did in April this year.
From modern technology with assistive features to fees for cleaners and carers, living with a visual impairment is nearly always more expensive than living abled. We live in a world created for the sighted and in order to access it, visually impaired people unfortunately have to fork out additional funds to experience many aspects of this world.
Read the RNIB study here to learn more about visually impaired people in this cost of living crisis.