What is meant by "legally blind"?

Have you ever heard someone say that they are legally blind because they cannot see to drive without glasses or contact lenses? Have you wondered how someone can be blind if they can see? 

What Does It Mean To Be "Legally Blind"?

In fact, “legally blind” refers to one’s best, corrected vision. The Social Security Administration and other government agencies consider a person legally blind when he or she has a best, corrected vision of no more than 20/200 in their best seeing eye. As long as your vision can be corrected to 20/200 with any type of visual aid, you are not considered legally blind.

To be legally blind, one of the following must be true:

  • You must have a corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in your best seeing eye.
  • Your visual field must be limited to only 20 degrees.

What is 20/20 Vision?

A person with perfect, 20/20 vision can see a certain amount of detail in an object when standing 200 feet away. A person with 20/200 vision must stand 20 feet away to see the same level of detail. A legally blind person has problems seeing objects that are far away or very close.

A normal person has a visual field of 180 degrees. If you have a normal visual field, you can see what is in front of you, even if it is to one side. A person with a visual field of only 20 degrees has tunnel vision.  He who can be considered legally blind cannot see someone standing next to their shoulder. Someone with tunnel vision may be able to read, but will not be able to drive. 

Only ten percent of those who are legally blind have no vision.

How Does This Affect Social Security Disability Benefits?

The definition of legal blindness determines who is able to drive and who is able to receive Social Security disability benefits. 

Contact a Boston Disability Lawyer

If you have additional questions about disability benefits for visual impairments, request a free copy of Boston disability lawyer John Keefe’s book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847. The initial consultation is free.

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer