6 Myths and Facts About Low Vision Patients

Before getting into the myths and facts of low vision, let’s define some terms that are often confused in this area of specialty.

Visual impairment: According to the American Optometric Association, visual impairment is a functional limitation of the eye(s) or visual system & can manifest as reduced visual acuity or contrast sensitivity, visual field loss, photophobia, diplopia, visual distortion, visual perceptual difficulties, or any combination of the above.
Legal blindness: In the US, legal blindness is defined as best corrected VA 20/200 or worse in the better seeing eye and/or peripheral vision worse than 20 degrees in both eyes.
Low vision (but not legal blindness): In the US, low vision is generally considered as best corrected VA of 20/70 to 20/200 (in most cases, someone with this level of vision cannot get an unrestricted driver’s license).
Complete blindness: No vision at all, also known as No Light Perception.


The following are a few myths and facts about low vision that will allow the student clinicians to better understand and work more effectively with patients with visual impairment.

Myth: Strictly looking at visual acuity, patients with 20/20 VA in one eye and No Light Perception in the other eye are considered legally blind.
Fact: Legal blindness is an impairment in BOTH eyes (we always consider the better seeing eye).

Myth: Individuals with visual impairment or those considered legally blind always use a white cane.
Fact: A person with low vision may use a white cane in specific situations, but many do not rely on a cane for mobility guidance. [2]

Myth: People with visual impairment cannot live independently.
Fact: Regardless of one’s level of visual loss, it is not a barrier to living a free and independent life. [2]

Myth: People who have low vision are unable to drive.
Fact: Currently, over 25 states allow individuals with low vision to have a restricted driver’s license. Many may require the patients to use a bioptic telescope while behind the wheel. Eligibility requirements vary by states. [2]

Myth: Individuals with low vision must read Braille because they are unable to read regular print.
Fact: The type of print patients with low vision read varies. Some use Braille, others use larger fonts,and there are those who read normal size print with an optical device. [2]

Myth: Low vision patients are born with their impairment.
Fact: Some diseases may cause visual impairment at birth (albinism, aniridia). Others are acquired later in life, such as age-related macular degeneration and trauma.

1. American Optometric Association. [www.aoa.org]
2. American Foundation for the Blind. [http://www.afb.org/section.aspx?sectionid=26&topicid=144 ]



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