The Extra Costs of Vision Loss: A Mixed Methods Investigation


Katie Savin: 0000-0001-8155-0749


Social Work


Background. People with vision loss experience many additional costs that individuals without a vision impairment do not incur. This mixed-methods study aims to both quantify the financial impact of low-vision on a person’s standard of living and illuminate the kinds of disability-related expenses experienced by working-age adults with visual impairments. Methods. Secondary analyses are provided of working-age adults from two nationally representative datasets of the US population: the Pulse Survey (N=4,134), and the Health and Retirement Study (N=3,120). Ordered-logistic and logistic regression and the standard of living method previously applied to estimate the extra costs of living with a disability are used. We further conducted interviews and focus groups with 16 individuals with low vision to identify potential drivers of these costs. Results. The results suggest that adults with low-vision must earn from 22 to 37 percent more income to achieve their standard of living (i.e. pay bills on time and make ends meet financially) than their non-visually impaired counterparts. Findings from the qualitative analysis identified glasses and low-vision devices, travel costs, health care costs, food-related costs, home-related costs and emergencies and unplanned costs as potential drivers of the financial burden identified. Conclusion. The study contributes to an emerging literature that documents the extra costs of disability and marks the first mixed-methods investigation of the extra costs of living with vision loss. Implications include the need to assess the reliability of poverty measures for this population and to consider how disability-related benefits might mitigate these costs.

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Publication Date


Publication Title

American Public Health Association Annual Meeting

Conference Dates

October 24-28, 2020

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