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26 Jan 2015

People with sight loss can face at least 25% higher cost for everyday living, new study reveals

Image: Andrew weekes Photography

People with sight loss can face at least 25% higher costs for everyday living than those who are fully sighted, according to a new study by Loughborough University for the sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust.

For the first time, the methods used to calculate the Minimum Income Standards (MIS) were applied to the living costs of people with disabilities. The research looked at sight loss and hearing loss and showed clearly that both impairments lead to substantial extra costs if a minimum acceptable standard of living is to be reached.

"This is the first time specific Minimum Income Standards have been calculated for people with disabilities," says Katherine Hill, senior researcher at the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP), Loughborough University, who led the research. "We know that living with a disability can be expensive. This research shows that the extra costs incurred can be quantified - an important step if support systems are to meet disabled people’s needs. The study identifies costs that make life a quarter more expensive for someone with a level of visual impairment that would qualify them to be certified as sight impaired, compared with costs for a sighted person."

The study, 'Disability and minimum living standards: The additional costs of living for people who are sight impaired and people who are Deaf' was carried out by researchers at the CRSP, Loughborough University and University Campus Suffolk. The costs were calculated using the same methods used for national Minimum Income Standard - groups of members of the public (in this case people living with sight loss or hearing loss), were asked to list all the things required for a minimum living standard.

The study found that even when people have some vision, sight loss affects so many aspects of life that a range of extra costs are incurred, generating substantial increases. Between them these add over £50 to the weekly budget currently accepted as the Minimum Income Standard for a sighted adult, which is almost £199.

The additional costs were to pay for things such as physical aids, as well as more general aspects of living, including the need to have opportunities to participate in society and maintain independence.

Extra costs included:

  • Technology (25% of extra cost): such as a higher spec, more accessible mobile phone, larger computer screens and specialist software, and TVs with talking menus. Such tools are essential for communication, access to written materials and to make best use of the sight that people have.
  • Domestic help (25%): Having a cleaner, even once a fortnight, can help to keep homes clean and looking good - important for a person's self-esteem.
  • Transport (13%): Taxis may be needed when attending medical appointments where eye drops are administered. Additional travel may also be required to get to appointments which can be long distances away, and to reach events specifically for people with sight loss. Transport subsidies can reduce travel costs but are not universally available and can be limited to off-peak travel.
  • Social activities (10%) and holidays (8%): As people with sight loss often rely on friends to help them to travel or take part in activities, being able to reciprocate - with a drink or meal - was seen as very important. If specialistaccommodation is needed, holidays can be expensive.
  • Household goods (10%): Some itemsmay need adapting to besight-loss friendly eg. more and brighter lighting; laminate floors and leather upholstery which are easier to clean; specialised kitchen and bathroom items that are easy to maintain and safe. A handyperson might also be needed for DIY jobs that require sight.
  • Health care (6%): Sight loss can lead to extra prescription costs, eg for eye drops, complex prescription spectacles, extra pairs of spectacles or more frequent changes to prescriptions.
  • Electricity (3%): Higher costs can result fromthe need for more lighting, which may be required for longer periods, and from using technological items.

The study clearly shows that the cost of living is substantially more expensive as a result of sight loss. However, it notes that the current benefits system of providing Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) may not take all of these costs into account.

Some of the most substantial needs - most notably the need for a cleaner and the cost of recognising the contributions made by other people in order to be able to attend holidays, social activities and appointments - are not recognised at all in the PIP assessment and, says the report, "there is a high risk of needs going unmet or only very partially met under the PIP system".

Pamela Lacy, Research and Dissemination Manager of Thomas Pocklington Trust says: "Understanding the true cost of sight loss is crucial if support systems are going to prevent people from having to live in undue hardship. The evidence in this new study is an important first step. We hope it will help in the development of a fairer system which fully takes on board the true costs of sight loss."

Notes for editors

Article reference number: PR15/08


Thomas Pocklington Trust is a national charity for people with sight loss. Its research programme commissions and funds social and public health research initiatives to identify ways to improve the lives of people with sight loss.

Disability and minimum living standards: The additional costs of living for people who are sight impaired and people who are Deaf, is available from A summary of findings related to sight loss is available at:

The research was carried out by Katherine Hill, Abigail Davis, Donald Hirsch, Matt Padley and Noel Smith atthe Centre for Research in Social Policy, Loughborough University and University Campus Suffolk.

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named Sports University of the Year 2013-14 by The Times and Sunday Times. Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and has been voted England's Best Student Experience for six years running in the Times Higher Education league. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.
In 2015 the University will open an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University in London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will offer postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.

The Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) is an autonomous research centre based in the Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough University.  

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