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Study reveals costs of blindness

Published: 8:14PM Monday March 20, 2006 Source: One News

The hidden costs of blindness have been exposed in a ground-breaking study.  It found New Zealand's 11,500 blind people are $6,000 a year worse off because of their disability.

Blindness is costing those who live without sight a staggering $60 million a year and it reveals the blind spend more on a raft of activities that sighted people take for granted.
Music has been a saviour for nine-year-old Lizzie Hollingworth.  Her talent for the piano is a wonderful discovery in a world where there's much blind children can't do.

"It's providing an opportunity in her life to learn something and get some sense of achievement and know she can be good at something," says her mother Jennifer Hollingworth.

But achieving in life is even more costly for the blind than experts have believed up until now, with a wider cost to society estimated at $27.5 million. 

"This isn't the cost of blindness, but these are the non optional costs that blind people face everyday to participate in society," says Paula Day, chief executive of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind.

They're costs blind university lecturer Jonathan Godfrey knows well - right down to the special software that enables him to teach. 

"It goes on and on and on, the costs of blindness start when you get out of bed in the morning and end when you go to bed at night," says Godfrey.

The report also reveals a high social cost for families with relationship failures, difficulties and depression. The blind often pay more because of their restricted ability to take advantage of sales and specials.

It also said getting around is also difficult and more costly with an enormous amount of time wasted waiting for transport, support and help.  

The Foundation of the Blind has taken the report to the government in the hope of a funding boost.  The government's current contribution of $7 million is one third of the money the foundation needs to meet it operating budget of $21 million.

And for families like the Hollingworth's, government recognition of the costs and challenges they face daily would be even more music to their ears.

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