Legal Blindness: What Is It?  

Most people have heard the term “legally blind” at some point, but many don’t understand what this oft-used nomenclature actually means.

Legally blind is not a diagnosis from an eye doctor — it relates to the government, and deems whether an individual is qualified for disability benefits.

What Are The Qualifications To Be Deemed Legally Blind?

Many people have eye disorders that limit their vision. Only 15% of people who are blind can’t see at all. Most people who qualify as blind have low vision or experience low vision or complete vision loss in certain circumstances (such as in the dark).

Normal vision is 20/20, which allows people to see an object that is 20 feet away clearly (without squinting). For people who are legally blind, their vision is 20/200 — or worse. A person with 20/200 vision needs to be 20 feet from an object that a person with 20/20 vision can see at 20 feet.

This means that a person who is legally blind may be able to see — just not nearly as well as a person who has 20/20 vision. In order to be classified as legally blind, vision must be 20/200 or worse in both eyes, even with corrective lenses.

Legal Blindness And Government Benefits

While an eye doctor may classify a person as legally blind, the condition is not a medical disorder. The term legally blind is used by the government. A person can be deemed legally blind due to a number of visual conditions. People who are legally blind may qualify for social security benefits.

If you think you may be legally blind, your doctor can determine whether you qualify for government benefits with a simple, in-office eye exam.

What Conditions Can Cause Someone To Be Legally Blind?

There are many reasons that can cause a person to become legally blind. Some people have vision differences that are present at birth, while others develop conditions over their lifetime that cause their visual acuity to deteriorate.

Common causes of legal blindness later in life (after the age of 40) include:

  • macular degeneration
  • cataracts
  • diabetic retinopathy
  • glaucoma

If you’ve been diagnosed with one of these conditions, be sure to work closely with your eye doctor and follow your treatment plan.

If you’re concerned about worsening vision or wonder if you may qualify for disability benefits on the basis of being legally blind, be sure to reach out to your eye care provider to learn more.