What Is Legal Blindness?

The following article discusses the U.S. Government’s definition of legal blindness.

Legal blindness as defined by the U.S. Government does not mean that a person has no vision at all, nor is it synonymous with a medical diagnosis of low vision. That is to say, that while a person with a diagnosis of low vision may in certain circumstances meet the U.S. Government’s standard of legal blindness, the reverse is not necessarily true. Only a low vision optometrist is qualified to make a diagnosis of low vision.

Legal blindness reflects the U.S. Government's definition of the term which may entitle people to government disability benefits, and will likely prevent them from legally driving a motor vehicle in many states.  This definition of legal blindness takes into account visual acuity and visual field. Visual acuity refers to the sharpness of vision at a distance of 20 feet. Visual field refers to all that the eye can see when it focuses on a fixed point. 

The U.S. government’s definition is as follows: 

  • If you cannot reach better than 20/200 with corrective measures in the best eye
  • If you have 20 degrees or less of your field of vision
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What Conditions Cause Legal Blindness?

Causes of blindness include:

  • Blindness from birth: Some people may be born with visual deficiencies that meet this criterion.
  • Blindness from medical and eye conditions:  There are many disorders and types of eye disease that can affect the optic nerve such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, best disease, stargardt, retinitis pigmentosa, ocular albinism, age-related macular degeneration, and other ocular disorders
  • Injury/trauma: Injuries can lead to visual deficits that meet this legal standard.

Symptoms or Conditions of Possible Legal Blindness

Signs of possible visual deficits that meet this standard are not monolithic and they will vary according to individuals. Schedule an appointment right away if you notice any of the following:

  • difficulty with peripheral vision
  • tunnel vision
  • difficulty with central vision
  • blind spots
  • difficulty with night vision
  • cloudiness

 

Treatment

Speak with our low vision optometrist to discuss how to proceed following a diagnosis of legal blindness. The emotional impact can be difficult. The good news is that with proper intervention regain their ability to do the things they loved doing before vision loss

Symptoms or Conditions of Possible Legal Blindness
Various interventions include:

Various interventions include:

  • Vision aids and vision devices such as magnifiers, specialty glasses, lighting, assistive technologies, prisms, and telescopic optical aids.
  • Vision therapy or rehabilitation to learn how to maximize residual vision
  • Emotional help: Speaking with psychologists, social workers, and emotional health counselors are often very helpful for those learning to cope emotionally with this condition.

Common Questions

Not necessarily. There are degrees of blindness. It is a government definition of visual impairment, but it doesn't mean that you have complete blindness.
Many people have found support on our page, resources and links for people with low vision.
What Is Legal Blindness?
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Definition of Legal Blindness

You can't diagnose yourself with legal blindness. Contact our low vision optometrist to schedule an examination to assess visual acuity and field of vision, both of which are essential for a thorough evaluation. It is relatively easy to determine if a person meets the legal criteria for blindness. If you have been diagnosed with legal blindness, speak with our optometrist to create a plan for maximizing your vision and living a normal life. With proper interventions, people can continue to enjoy fulfilling, enjoyable, lives.

Testimonials


  • I haven't actually used the optometrist side, so my review is limited to the vision therapy offered.  This office was recommended by my occupational therapist for the treatment of my double vision following a stroke.


    Claire A.

  • Love this location. I had a brain injury accident from day one one. All the team make you feel you still important and hope in the horizon after when the medical system fell you miserably. Dr. Ikeda very professional and very understanding about your issue. Two tombs up.


    Jim K.

  • My husband and I were immediately impressed with Dr Ikeda. I was hit by a car while cycling which caused broken bones and three brain injuries. The brain injuries caused double vision. Dr. Ikeda examined my eyes and got me started on vision therapy with his occupational therapist who specializes in vision therapy.  She (Chris) is absolutely great.  I am impressed with the array of tools used to help recover my binocular vision.  I am doing things I never thought were possible (balance boards etc).  Chris pushes me and keeps me motivated. I really enjoy my sessions with her.  The office staff is always friendly and they have a wonderful appointment reminder tool that makes it easy to keep my calendar up to date. I am happy the rehab center at Little Co. of Mary recommended them!!


    Teresa S.

  • The Vision Therapy is handled in a separate office through a different door from the shared waiting room. Chris, the vision therapist, has a wide and varied assortment of tools, equipment and resources to best evaluate and treat most vision issues. After just a few visits, my double vision became easier to control, using exercises developed during the therapy process. It was time well-spent.


    Joe M.

  • I have been coming here since I can remember. I love it here. The staff is so amazing and nice. They explain everything they gonna do and never make you feel rushed. Dr. Ikeda has always been my doctor and I would never want another one. He is the doctor for my whole family and is always asking how everyone is doing. I am also so crazy about picking out my frames and have to try so many and each person who helps me take the time and lets me try them all on. I would never want to go anywhere else! I definitely would recommend this office to anyone looking for a great eye doctor.


    Kayla W.

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