As reported by the World Health Organization, some 1.3 billion people all over the world are blind or visually impaired. This means that they are all around us, and there is a high tendency that you will come across at least one blind or visually impaired person in your lifetime.
So who is a blind person, and what makes them so unique?
Typically, anyone with a severe visual impairment as a result of injury, disease and in some cases, a congenital condition, is said to be blind. It is common for a sighted person to ask what blind people see, and you would have probably given it some thought before as well, which is just normal. Many have even wondered, is it like when I close my eyes? Is it like when I am in a very dark room or cave with no lights? Many have even concluded, it would be like seeing black or vast darkness. The truth is, because there are varying degrees of vision impairment, there is no perfect answer to the question.
However, the belief that what every blind person sees is absolute darkness is nothing but a myth that is reinforced by our own notion.
There’s got to be something they see at least, and here is it!
What blind people see varies depending on whether they were blind from birth, went completely blind or are legally blind.
Blind from birth:
A person who is blind from birth sees nothing. This is a difficult concept that many sighted people find very hard to grasp. All a person who has never had sight sees is nothingness because the brain which sees information has no connection with the eye that should receive the codes to initiate vision. Simply put, there is no light reception.
A good way to exemplify this is to imagine what your toe or shoulder sees. Absolutely nothing. Why? Because they have no connection with the brain to initiate vision. The eye of a person born blind is similar to his toe or shoulder when it comes to visual perception.
Went totally blind:
Often dubbed as “no light perception.” People that are completely blind cannot perceive light at all. However, in the case where they have had sight, their brains are capable of creating visual sensations that are actually not real. If you mentioned something or an object they have ever seen, the brain would create the vision as though it is seen physically. They can only paint a mental picture of what is already stored in their brain. They cannot perceive what they did not know before they went blind.
Legally blinded people are those whose visual acuity are 20/200 or less in the best seeing eye and 20/140 or less for peripheral vision. This means that what the legally blinded person can see at 20ft, the average person can see clearly at 200ft for the best-seeing eye. Also, the average person has a peripheral vision of 140 degrees without turning their head; this is limited to 20 degrees for legally blinded individuals.
From this description, we can infer that legally blind people do not see clearly.
That leads us back to the main question, what do they see? This depends on their level of vision and the cause of visual impairment.
- A person who has cataract might see milk whiteness in bright light and nothing in the dark. Severe cases may lead to an inability to see in dim light and complete loss of vision.
- A person who has macular degeneration will see vaguely and will be able to read only with magnification.
- Farsighted and nearsighted people have their eyes too wide or too narrow to focus light on the retina. These give blurred vision as well as vision disorder.
- People with Astigmatism have blurred vision.
- A person who has glaucoma will have no peripheral vision.
- A person with retinitis pigmentosa might see a bit in bright light but sees nothing in the darkness.
- Depending on light perceptibility, some people may observe when lights are on or off.
- Tunnel vision requires a cone that is less than or equal to 10 degrees for augmentation.