What Do Blind People See?

The word “blind” is a very broad term. If you’re legally blind , you may be able to see reasonably well with a pair of corrective lenses.

“Legally blind” is more of a legal term than a functional description. In fact, the U.S. government uses the term legally blind to refer to a person who’s eligible to receive certain types of aid and services because of their vision impairment.

So, many people with a wide range of visual impairments could fall into that broad category of “blind” or even the slightly narrower category of “legally blind.” Yet, their experiences may be very different.

You can’t make assumptions that all blind people see — or don’t see — the same things.

What they see

What a blind person can see depends a great deal on how much vision they have. A person with total blindness won’t be able to see anything.

But a person with low vision may be able to see not only light, but colors and shapes too. However, they may have trouble reading street signs, recognizing faces, or matching colors to each other.

If you have low vision, your vision may be unclear or hazy. Some visual deficits cause part of your field of vision to be compromised.

You might have a blind spot or a blurry spot in the middle of your field of vision. Or your peripheral vision may be impaired on one or both sides. These issues can involve one or both eyes.

Types of blindness

There are a few different types of visual impairment that fall into the overall category of blindness.

Low vision

If you have permanently reduced vision but retain some amount of your sight, you have low vision.

The American Foundation for the Blind describes low vision as “permanently reduced vision that cannot be corrected with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery.”

However, you may still be able to see well enough with those corrective measures or magnifying devices to carry out most of your normal activities of daily living. But you may have some difficulties.

Many conditions can lead to low vision, including:

  • macular degeneration
  • glaucoma
  • cataracts
  • damage to the retina

Total blindness

Total blindness describes people with eye disorders who have no light perception (NLP). That is, a person who’s totally blind doesn’t see any light at all.

Total blindness can be the result of trauma, injury, or even conditions like end stage glaucoma or end stage diabetic retinopathy.

Congenital blindness

This description applies to people who are blind from birth. Some congenital eye conditions can develop during pregnancy and lead to blindness, while the causes of others are still unknown.

Legally blind

So, where does “legally blind” belong? Think of it more as a classification than a functional description of what a person can or can’t see or do.

Think 20/200. If you have to get within 20 feet of an object to see it clearly, when another person could easily see it from 200 feet away, you may fall into this category.

Research estimates that approximately 1 million peopleTrusted Source in the United States can be considered legally blind.