What Does It Mean to Be Legally Blind?

While you may have poor eyesight, are you actually legally blind? There is a legal definition for who and what constitutes as blind or even just “low vision.” Are you close? Can you get some extra benefits thanks to your poor eyesight?

The Road to Blindness
If you’re not quite blind yet, but your eyesight isn’t everything it used to be, you probably fall in the category of those adults with low vision. Low vision is sometimes referred to as “partial blindness,” but as the term isn’t necessarily accurate, “low vision” is preferred.

But what does it mean to have low vision? Is it just that your vision is blurry or unclear? Legally, it needs to be caused by an eye disease of some kind and bring your vision acuity down to at least 20/70. This means that in order to see what most people can see from 70 feet away, you have to be as close as 20 feet. In other words, you can barely read the 3rd row from the top on the Snellen Eye Chart (or the chart you read at the eye doctor with all the letters).

Basically, if it is at least 20/70, is uncorrectable—even with contacts, glasses or surgery—and interferes with your daily activities, it can be legally considered “low vision.”

low visionBlind Leading the Blind
In order to be legally blind, you must have a visual acuity of 20/200. This means that even with glasses or contacts, you can only read the first letter at the top of the Snellen Chart, if that. You can also be legally blind if you can see, but only in a very small window in your eye. Essentially, even if you can see, if you can’t see enough to function on a regular basis, you can probably be considered legally blind.

Note that legally blind is not totally blind. While legally blind people still might be able to see technically, people who are totally blind will not be able to sense light or see anything at all.

If you have a higher Snellen rating than 20/70 both with or without contacts or glasses, you have fairly good eye sight comparatively and you are not legally blind or even legally low vision.