MYTHS- Setting the Records Straight on Visual Impairments

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As stated in our previous blog on what it means to be legally blind, there are many misconceptions surrounding the visually-impaired and blind community.  The ultimate outcome of allowing these myths to go unanswered is the removal of the person behind the diagnosis. Their propensity to disprove doubts they receive from the sighted community stems from a lack of understanding the sighted community has about blindness. 

Myth #1

Blind individuals are granted heightened senses and skills to counteract the vision impairment.

As spectacular as this sounds, blind people do not organically develop heightened senses. However, what does take place is the reliance on other senses that differ from people with intact sight. The method of learning to do familiar tasks with alternative senses is a learned one that takes repetition, hard work, and sharp memory.  Magic would be much faster and easier, but because blind PEOPLE are not supernatural beings, magic is not an option.

Myth #2

People who are visually impaired or blind will never be able to live on their own. They will always require help from others to ensure their safety.

Again, like having to learn how to use alternative senses to perform tasks, learning to be independent takes time and practice. Since legal blindness is a spectrum, and only about 10%-15% of the visually-impaired population is totally blind, the learning process greatly varies. Specialized training is available to those on the spectrum. With the use of low-vision therapists and technology, the blind or visually impaired can and do lead independent lives.

Myth #3

Blind and visually-impaired people cannot travel on their own.

I get it—traveling is already a daunting task before considering traveling with visual impairments. Airports, public transportation, and large numbers of people can be stressful for just about anyone. Whether traveling down the block or to distant countries, the visually impaired and blind have been doing it independently for years. Vision-aiding technology and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) can teach independent travel skills.  Traveling stresses most people out, but that does not mean we should set limitations in our minds for the visually-impaired and blind community.

Myth #4

Blind people cannot see anything. They just see complete and total darkness.

According to South King Council of the Blind, only about 10%-15% of the visually impaired population see nothing at all. The majority of those with impaired vision have varying levels of sight. 

Myth #5

You can always tell when someone is blind.

To build off myth #4, most blind people can see. Blind people lead normal lives and can give little-to- no indication of their visual impairment. Blind people do not always use seeing eye dogs, tinted glasses, or white canes. Those with visual impairments may choose not to disclose that they are legally blind. They might not want the people to focus on their impairment, they might not feel safe enough to share, they may have adapted to life with legal blindness and do not see it as a major road block, or they may have some other reason. If you do notice that someone is blind or has a visual impairment that they have not disclosed to you, respect the person in that situation as you would anyone else.  

Myth #6

Being blind is a tragedy. Life ends for people diagnosed with vision impairments. You should feel sorry and pity them.

Maybe you do not feel as strongly as it is stated above. Maybe you think “I am so glad I am not legally blind. I cannot imagine how hard life must be.” This kind of thinking is counter-productive to progress because they are limiting thoughts. Each of us face different obstacles in life. Similar to how you might prevent those obstacles becoming a badge you wear or a chip on your shoulder, those who are blind and visually impaired do not always allow their blindness to hinder their quality of life. They adapt and learn how to do the things they love despite their diagnosis. They can lead completely normal lives and live as fully as the sighted community.

Those living with legal blindness have adjusted and adapted to challenges thrown their way due to their visual impairment. Just like the sighted population, the blind and visually impaired set goals and high expectations for themselves. Harboring misconceptions about what people can and cannot achieve sets back the progress the blind and visually-impaired community continues to make. The sighted community does the blind community a disservice by setting low expectations for them and forcing them to prove themselves on a consistent basis. By disproving these myths and tearing down walls of misconception, we give a space for the blind community to truly show everything they are capable of.