Low Vision News

For low vision specialists and those who consult them

Why does the Prime Minister’s vision matter?

There has been much speculation in the British newspapers about Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s eyesight and how it may affect his ability to govern (see for example, this article in the Observer, my favourite British newspaper).

I find this type of reporting distasteful. The implication that someone with visual impairment is unable to perform an important job is flawed at best and offensive at worst. All low vision specialists with a few years experience will have met people with very poor vision successfully performing high pressure jobs (for example, I have been consulted by senior academics, lawyers, investment bankers, journalists, lawyers, and a television producer). Indeed, the UK’s former home secretary David Blunkett has no light perception in either eye (and gave one of the best presentations at the Vision 2005 conference in London).

If Gordon Brown was a pilot or a bus driver then it would be in the public interest to know if his vision fell below a certain standard and he was continuing to work. However I fail to see why poor vision would be of any relevance to someone’s ability to be a politician, particularly one in central government who will have dozens of aides who could act as readers if necessary. It also really sends the wrong message to young people with visual impairment: if your eyesight gets worse you can’t run for election to parliament.

Incidentally, from this report it sounds unlikely that Mr Brown’s vision does fall into any of the definitions of low vision: meaning that this story really is a lot of fuss about nothing. I’d rather read some perceptive reporting on the Prime Minister’s actions rather than speculation about his vision.

Sorry this is a bit of a subjective rant rather than a research synopsis – I promise I’ll go back to science for the next post.

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