5 Common Misconceptions About Blindness

“It’s about walking boldly with confidence, transcending barriers and changing the way we perceive blindness.” — Stephanae McCoy

When I lost my eyesight as a mildly seasoned professional, I quickly learned thriving within the sighted world meant overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The most significant hurdles are the misconceptions around sight loss, blindness, and the capabilities of blind people.

Transitioning into an unknown major life-altering event is a process that can be scary and overwhelming at times. However, after the acceptance of, and acclimation to sight loss, for the most part we remain the same. Personal adjustment to blindness training enables those new to blindness to learn new ways of accomplishing tasks.

Following is a list of common misconceptions and brief explanations:

1. Blindness means a complete lack of sight, total darkness. False.

The majority of people who are considered blind have some functional vision. This could range from a little light perception, shapes or shadows, lack of peripheral or central vision, cloudy, obstructed vision, etc.

2. Legal blindness is when a person can’t see after taking off corrective lenses. False.

Legal blindness is a specific measurement required for an affected individual to receive government benefits. Legal blindness does not define or describe functional vision. When a person is legally blind their functional vision affects day-to-day living and cannot be corrected by lenses, medicine or surgery. There are legally blind people who, for personal reasons, do not use mobility aids or self identify. This is their right and requires no explanation.

3. People who use white canes or guide dogs are totally blind. False.

As indicated in points one and two, there is a vast range of sight loss, and it differs from person to person. Many people who are legally blind and use mobility aids may in fact “appear” to see. These individuals need these devices to navigate safely and independently.

4. There is a distinct differentiation between blind and sighted people. False

Many people who are blind do not “appear” so for a number of reasons. Many people who are blind carry themselves confidently and are well put together. Many people who are blind are highly skilled in a number of areas including, law, health care, technology, art, science, sports, politics, teaching, etc.

5. Blind people cannot read text or use devices like smart phones and tablets. False.

Keeping in mind the vast range of sight loss — this includes people who are totally blind — many of us are adept at using technical devices and could in fact, depending on our personal situation, read text.

While the above list is not all inclusive, most of us, at one time or another, 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 coming across anyone who has 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 — even people with disabilities — are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.

Stephanae McCoy, is a businesswoman, style setter, blogger, abilities crusader and founder of www.boldblindbeauty.com a successful website that makes a connection between the sighted and non-sighted worlds eradicating misconceptions and long-held stereotypes about people with vision loss. Ms. McCoy can be contacted at [email protected]

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Thinkstock photo by Andrey Popov

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