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5 Common Misconceptions About Blindness

“Real Beauty Transcends Barriers” ~Stephanae McCoy

Optical illusion of a 3-dimensional hollow crate.The following is an edited version of the original article published on The Mighty on July 19, 2017.

When I lost my eyesight I quickly learned that thriving within the sighted world meant overcoming obstacles. Believe it or not, while living with sight loss isn’t easy the most difficult challenges come in the form of misconceptions. Listed below are a few I’ve encountered:

  1. Blindness is a complete lack of sight, total darkness – FALSE
    • The majority of people considered blind have some functional vision i.e. light perception, shapes/shadows, lack of peripheral or central vision, cloudy, obstructed vision, etc.
  2. People who use white canes or guide dogs are totally blind – FALSE
    • The range of sight loss is enormous and it differs from person to person. Many legally blind people who use mobility aids may ‘appear’ to see. The aids are needed for navigating safely and independently.
  3. Legal blindness is when a person can’t see after taking off corrective lenses – FALSE
    • Legal blindness refers to a specific measurement required for a person to receive government benefits.
    • Legal blindness does not define or describe the functional vision.
    • When a person is legally blind, day-to-day living is impacted and their eyesight cannot be corrected by lenses, medicine or surgery.
    • There are legally blind people who do not use mobility aids or self-identify, this is their right.
  4. There is a clear contrast between blind and sighted people – FALSE
    • Many blind people do not ‘look’ like they cannot see.
    • Many blind people walk confidently and are well put together.
    • Many blind people are highly skilled in a number of areas including, law, healthcare, technology, art, science, sports, politics, teaching, etc.
  5. Blind people cannot use smartphones, tablets, or computers – FALSE
    • Many blind people are extremely technologically savvy. 

Six assorted stones balanced on top of one another to represent balance.While this list isn’t all-inclusive many of us have encountered situations where our lack of eyesight is questioned. If there were one takeaway I would want people to understand it would be this: when meeting a person who uses a mobility device or self-identifies as having a hidden disability take it at face value.

Many times things are not as they might appear and just because we may not understand the situation does not change the fact that everyone—including people with disabilities—are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.

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