HKSB in the Media
Questions, Answers About the Legally Blind
March 18, 2008
by Delthia Ricks
“Legally blind” is a term that describes extremely impaired eyesight resulting from any one of numerous causes.
Ira Price, clinical director of the Helen Keller Services for the Blind, said the organization’s centers on Long Island and in Brooklyn help people with low vision develop skills that foster independence. Dr. Douglas Lazzaro, chairman of ophthalmology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, noted that more than 1 million people nationwide are legally blind.
Price and Lazzaro elaborated yesterday on issues involving people who are legally blind:
What does it mean to be legally blind?
Technically, the definition is having 20/200 vision, or worse. The visual field is very limited and there is no peripheral vision. Although the term “legally blind” is widely used, many experts prefer the term “low vision.”
Is David A. Paterson the first legally blind governor?
No. Paterson is the nation’s second legally blind governor. Bob Cowley Riley, who lost his left eye in World War II and later lost vision in his right eye, served 11 days as governor of Arkansas in 1975.
How many people in the United States have severe vision problems?
There are about 10 million blind and visually impaired people nationwide. An estimated 1.3 million are legally blind, according to the American Foundation for the Blind.
Can glasses help improve eyesight for someone with low vision?
Glasses cannot correct the underlying problem that has caused eyesight to be limited. There are certain other vision aids to help people with low vision.
What can a legally blind person see?
Someone whose vision is in the 20/200 range can see colors and shapes. Some can read newspapers, books and magazines as well as written material on computer screens. The information must be enhanced with a magnifying device, such as a font enlarger. Many people with low vision watch television, although the images may appear somewhat fuzzy. For those whose vision is less than 20/200, additional help may be necessary. A telescopic lens can be used to help enhance images on a television screen.
What is the purpose of rehabilitation programs?
People with low vision want to be independent, and programs are available to help them acquire skills for daily living. Programs are based on each person’s level of visual function, which can differ significantly from one individual to another. In addition to programs that emphasize practical skills, there are those aimed at students of all ages.
What causes low vision?
There is a wide range of causes. Some people have impaired vision because of congenital atrophy or malformation of the eye. Trauma is the No. 1 cause of low vision in children; diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of low vision among adults. However, viral and bacterial infections and inflammatory immune system disorders also can profoundly affect eyesight.
Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.