HD16 - Examination of References Used in the Code of Virginia When Referring to Individuals With Visual Impairments
The findings of this study conclude that there is a need to alter the language in the Code of Virginia to accommodate the proper defining terminology of individuals who are visually handicapped. The origin of the term "handicapped" is archaic and has a negative connotation to today's society. It refers to an individual with a disability on the streets, begging, with a "cap in hand". While the use of the word "handicapped" may have been acceptable by some previously, the use of such language is archaic and offensive to many today. As we enter the new millennium, it is important that we use positive and acceptable language when referring to persons who are blind and visually impaired. Using positive and acceptable language is only the beginning to removing the attitudinal barrier individuals with disabilities encounter daily. It is the Department of the Visually Handicapped's intent to convey the appropriate message about the constituents whom it serves.
The findings of this study also conclude that there is no one term that fits the differing levels of sight. To provide standard terminology to capture the collective body of people with various levels of sight, the Department for the Visually Handicapped recommends using the term "blind and visually impaired".
Where the intent of the statutory reference is to refer to people who are "legally blind" as defined in § 63.1-142, then it is recommended the term "blind" or "legally blind" be used. Adding "visually impaired" to these references would be confusing and incorrect. Individuals may be "visually impaired" but not considered "legally blind" or "blind". If the intent of the statutory reference is to identify people with some level of visual impairment short of the "legal blindness" threshold specified in § 63.1-142, then the standard terminology recommended is "visually impaired". If the intent of the statutory reference is to identify persons with any level of visual impairment, which includes individuals blind and those who are visually impaired, then the reference should be "blind and visually impaired." Individuals may be "blind" or "legally blind" and also considered "visually impaired."
In conclusion, the findings of this study show that there is no one terminology that fits the differing levels of sight. To provide standard terminology to capture the collective body of people with various levels of sight, the Department for the Visually Handicapped recommends using the standard terminology, "blind and visually impaired."