Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Recognizing Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month; The “Intersection of Culture and Blindness”

by Amy Gendreau, RDPFS Intern:

May has been established as Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. The celebration serves to highlight the “important role of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) have played in our shared history,” in culture, sports, science, entertainment, and every aspect of American society. This commemoration also provides an opportunity to highlight the experiences of individuals who have vision loss from these communities. Priscilla Yeung reflected on “challenges of being a blind woman who is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI)” in an article entitled “At the Intersection of Culture and Blindness.” Yeung, senior IMPACT Project manager with the Society for the Blind, connected with others with a variety of disabilities from the AAPI communities during a Disability Rights California campaign, finding that “’even though we all had different disabilities, we had similar experiences. It was really validating.’” She and others noted the challenges of being accepted within AAPI culture. Leung “hopes that as a culture, people who are AAPI will be willing to look at those stigmas and see that recognizing them is a positive first step.” She observed that “It’s about learning to exist in our cultural norms and family units while working to overcome some of these misconceptions, both inside ourselves and across our culture.” The pandemic posed additional difficulties, with many who had worked to become more comfortable and mobile with vision loss becoming “’afraid for their safety as people who are Asian.’” Leung recognizes that challenges also provide opportunities to increase public awareness and has shared her experiences in a number of settings, including the NFB (National Federation of the Blind) convention, the United Way California Capital Region, and Amtrak. For more information on the significance of this month’s commemoration, with archival information about the Asian and Pacific Islanders experience, Smithsonian events and resources, and more, read the federal government webpage on Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month and the Wikipedia piece on Asian American and Pacific Islander Month. To read the article about Yeung, visit the Society for the Blind webpage on  At the Intersection of Culture and Blindness.

Prevalence of Eye Conditions Among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

In addition to focusing on the experiences of individuals from AAPI communities, this month’s commemoration also provides an opportunity to highlight the importance and benefits of comprehensive, regular eye care. It bears repeating that certain eye conditions are more prevalent in some populations For example, glaucoma, the third most common eye disorder in the world, has its highest rates of occurrence among individuals from Asia. People of Chinese descent are “more likely to have myopia, myopic retinopathy, angle-closure glaucoma, lens opacities, exudative age-related macular degeneration than African Americans, Latinos, or non-Hispanic whites.” To protect sight among Americans of Asian heritage, as well as other groups with increased risk for eye diseases, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has shared information about taking early steps to protect sight. Early detection and treatment can prevent sight loss in many cases, since “many eye diseases may have no apparent symptoms in their early stages.” Regular eye exams can detect eye diseases so they may be treated early to help prevent vision loss. For additional information, read: an article published on the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website about The Chinese American Eye Study: Design and Methods;  a Glaucoma Research Foundation piece on Glaucoma in Asian Populations; and the Hawaiian Journal of Health report on Prevalence and Risk Factors of Self-reported Vision Impairment among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Information and recommendations from the AAO are featured in an article on Ethnicity and Eye Disease: A Risk Reminder for Asian-, African- and Latino-Americans.