Legally Blind Definition Explained in Detail

2020-07-08 | By Orcam Staff

share facebook share twitter share linkedIn share whatsApp
Legally Blind Definition Explained in Detail - OrCam

Understanding Legal Blindness: A Closer Look at the Concept

In the realm of vision impairment, the term "legal blindness" holds immense significance. Let's delve into its definition, implications, and the crucial distinctions it carries.

Deciphering the Meaning of Legal Blindness

At its core, being legally blind signifies a profound level of visual impairment. This term isn't merely a phrase; it possesses legal implications that significantly impact an individual's access to support and various services.

The Metrics of Legal Blindness: Numbers that Matter

Within the spectrum of legal blindness, numbers play a pivotal role. These numbers are more than statistical values; they determine an individual's eligibility for essential assistance and accommodations.

Defining Legal Blindness: Numbers and Thresholds

The criteria for legal blindness can vary depending on jurisdiction, but a universal standard is a visual acuity of 20/200 or lower in the better eye, even with optimal correction. Moreover, a visual field of 20 degrees or less is also indicative of legal blindness.

Exploring the Medical Terminology of Blindness

While the term "blindness" is commonly used, its medical connotation denotes a substantial loss of visual function. Legal blindness, however, carries a specific legal context that opens doors to necessary resources and benefits.

Unveiling the Extent of Legal Blindness

Legal blindness isn't a singular definition; it encompasses a range of visual impairments that significantly impact an individual's daily life. This term transcends the realm of medical jargon; it serves as a gateway to vital support systems.

Delving Deeper: Understanding Legal Blindness

To truly grasp legal blindness, it's imperative to comprehend the criteria that define it and the implications it carries.

Determining the Threshold: When Does Legal Blindness Occur?

The onset of legal blindness is determined by meeting specific criteria set forth by governing authorities. These criteria are meticulously designed to ensure individuals with substantial visual impairments receive the necessary care and considerations.

Qualifying for Legal Blindness: The Essential Criteria

Legal blindness qualification hinges on both visual acuity and visual field measurements. A clear understanding of these criteria is pivotal for individuals seeking assistance and asserting their rights.

Demystifying the Definition of Legal Blindness

Legal blindness is more than a label; it's an acknowledgment of the challenges individuals face due to visual impairment. This term isn't confined to semantics; it unlocks access to crucial services and opportunities.

Decoding the Significance of Legal Blindness Numbers

The numeric representation of legal blindness holds profound significance. It encapsulates the visual struggles individuals cope with daily and serves as a determinant for accessing vital resources and benefits.

Factors that Influence Legal Blindness: A Holistic View

Multiple factors contribute to the recognition of legal blindness. These factors encompass various aspects of visual impairment and its impact on daily life.

The Comprehensive Picture: Factors Influencing Legal Blindness

Legal blindness determination considers multiple facets, including visual acuity, visual field, and the overall disruption of daily activities. This comprehensive assessment guarantees tailored assistance for those in need.

Distinguishing Legal Blindness from Total Blindness

It's crucial to differentiate legal blindness from total blindness. Legal blindness denotes a specific level of visual impairment with legal and medical implications, while total blindness signifies complete sight absence.

Navigating Life as a Legally Blind Individual: Overcoming Challenges

Legal blindness poses unique challenges, but they are not insurmountable. With appropriate resources, support, and tools, individuals with legal blindness can lead independent and fulfilling lives.

Harnessing Assistive Technologies: Empowerment through Innovation

Modern technology offers an array of assistive devices for legally blind individuals. These tools, from screen readers to magnification software, enhance accessibility and bridge the gap.

The Role of Support Systems: Building a Strong Foundation

Support systems, including family, friends, and advocacy groups, are instrumental for legally blind individuals. They provide emotional backing, guidance, and a platform to address societal hurdles.

Shifting Paradigms: Evolving Perspectives on Legal Blindness

Society's evolving inclusivity and understanding reshape perceptions of legal blindness. Recognizing that legal blindness doesn't define potential but contributes to individual journeys is paramount.

What is considered legally blind?

Legally blind - we hear this term quite often, but what does it signify? Mostly considered a medical condition, the term "legally blind" is more accurately a governmental categorization of status than a medical one. This classification serves as a criterion for the government to determine whether a person is eligible for specific benefits like disability pensions or job training. Let's delve deeper into what it means to be "legally blind".

Legally Blind in the U.S. and the U.K.

In the United States, people who are registered under the definition of legally blind can be eligible for vocational training, rehabilitation, schooling, low vision devices, and tax exemption programs. It’s estimated that 4.2 million adult Americans ages 40+ are blind or visually impaired.


In the United Kingdom, the legal definition of blindness is a person who is “so blind that they cannot do any work for which eyesight is essential.” The RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) details the criteria for certification on their website, as described in the video below:

Understanding the Legally Blind Definition

The stereotypical assumption – that people who are blind or have low vision live in a type of “blackness” that sighted people see when they close their eyes – is generally not accurate.


The definition of legally blind varies from one person to another. For some people, they might have a good peripheral vision but have trouble seeing objects from far away. Other people might have no issue seeing distant objects but can’t see anything in their periphery. A person cannot diagnose themselves, it has to come from their doctor.


The general guideline for being categorized as legally blind is having vision that is 20/200 or less. This means that what a person with normal vision can see from 200 feet away, you can only see from 20 feet away.

Living with Blindness

Losing the ability to see can be scary, but it doesn’t have to limit your ability to live your life. People who are legally blind are still fully functional members of society. There are many resources out there for people who are blind and visually impaired, and incorporating assistive technology into your everyday life does not have to be so scary.


In an earlier blog post, we outlined a number of ways to use our new and improved OrCam MyEye PRO from environmental awareness to everyday chores and tasks.


Cooking, dating, and many other activities are possible even when you are legally blind. For inspiration, you can follow these blind social media influencers that we compiled into a list for you to learn from their daily life hacks, and become part of their community.


In these communities, people share their daily life experiences which include moving apartments, to ordering skincare products on Amazon and everything in between. Here’s a link to YouTube influencer Molly Burke’s experience in solo-traveling as a blind person:

If you or anyone you know learn that they are legally blind, organizations like the American Foundation for the Blind can help. They facilitate programs to help people deal with the physical and emotional effects of vision loss.


We understand that it may feel isolating at times to be living with vision loss. Hopefully this post showed you that there are millions of people out there who are legally blind and living their best lives.


In summary, legal blindness isn't a mere medical term; it signifies a substantial visual impairment with legal significance. The criteria for legal blindness ensure proper support for those in need. With advancing technology and changing viewpoints, legal blindness is becoming a bridge to opportunity rather than an insurmountable obstacle.