005: Are You Blind, Legally Blind or Visually Impaired?

[Podcast] Are You Blind, Legally Blind or Visually Impaired? - Episode 5

It has occurred to me over the years that there are many words and phrases to describe someone who cannot see very well. But, what is the appropriate word or phrase? Well, actually, there isn't just one correct word or phrase. Blindness, or not being able to see at 20/20 vision, is a spectrum. Therefore, there are many different levels of being blind. I want to discuss the different ways to describe blind people, what these descriptions mean and how it can impact you.

News & Updates

1. Woman Takes Missing Fireworks Too Far

A 41 year old woman (yes that's right) was arrested for choking a teenager at Disney World. Apparently, this woman was set to watch the fireworks show when teenagers stood up in front of her. According to the police report, they stood up, she asked them to sit, they walked away and one girl told the woman she could have their place. She then began to choke that girl. It's true what they say: Disney is the happiest place on earth…unless you miss those fireworks.

2. Smartphone Use Causing Temporary Blindness

At the Mayo Clinic, a woman was seen with two episodes of temporary blindness in one eye. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis because of this. However, after some investigation, it was revealed that she had these episodes due to using her smartphone in bed. A doctor at the Mayo Clinic says that something called Transient Smartphone Blindness, or TSB, (No, I did not make that up) occurs when one eye is used primary in using the phone. That eye then needs to adjust to the light with the other eye. It's just one more reason to believe that smartphones are out to get us.

3. Some Eyesight Myths – True or False

A recent article quoted a professor from the London Vision Clinic as he spoke about some myths dealing with eyesight. There were five mentioned, but there were a couple that stuck out to me. First, it said that there is no evidence that starting at a screen will permanently damage your eyesight. It did say, however, that it can cause pain and dry eyes. Also, and important for our purposes, it debunked the myth that said “if you had an eye problem, you would know it.” It discussed glaucoma and other issues which are symptomless for the most part. So, getting regular check ups on your eyes is very important.

What do I call you?

When I first started losing my sight, I really didn't think about all the terms that are used to describe someone like me. I wrote a post about the first time I heard the word blind that you can read here. But, needless to say, there are quite a few and they can be confusing. So, I'll do my best today to give a brief overview of the terms and what they mean. It's not exact science here, but I'll doo my best.

See the Spectrum

First of all, having issues seeing is really a spectrum. A person who has trouble seeing will be on this spectrum but at varying points. It goes from one end with a very small difference all the way to the other end which is complete vision loss. There is no right or wrong. Just different.

It's Just Semantics

As I said, there are many different terms and phrases used to describe people with a visual problem. Let's look at a few common ones:

Legally Blind

This term is used for legal and governmental purposes. To qualify as legally blind, your vision, at its more correctable point, must be 20/200. The key is to remember that this is at a correctable point. So, if your vision is 20/200 but you can wear glasses or contacts to correct it above that, you are not considered legally blind. (As a side note, from what I recall, you have to have at least 20/50 vision to drive. So, don't get those confused! lol…)

Visually Impaired

This is a blanket statement used for someone with a vision problem. Typically, a person will use this phrase if they have some usable vision left. In fact, most visually impaired people have some type of remaining vision.


This is the general term used for someone who can't see “normally.” This can be used for someone with no vision or someone with some vision. Typically, the blind is thought of as someone with absolutely no vision at all. That can be true, but it can also be used for those of us with some usable vision.


These seem pretty self explanatory. Someone is a “total” if they have no vision at all or are totally blind. A “partial” is someone with some remaining vision or is partially blind.

Visual Disturbance

Sometimes used on medical charts, it is in reference to someone who has vision problems of any type. (This one is probably my favorite, just because it sound cool!)

Low Vision

This one is again used for people who have some usable vision remaining. It is often used for products that asset people, like talking watches and magnifiers. They are referred to as “low vision aids.”

Education is Important

Now, is it terrible if you use the blind all the time? No, not necessarily. But, educating the sighted community can be helpful. Letting them know the difference between a total and a partial can help avoid situations where they think someone is faking being blind. This can also help stop the stigma that all blind people look the same (i.e. dark sunglasses and a white cane). Sometimes it can be annoying to educate the public, but it can be very helpful for all of us in the long run.

Real Life Retweet

Life After Blindness

This week I was featured on the “Life After Blindess Podcast” with Tim Schwartz, in which you can listen to by clicking here. I discussed my role as a blind husband and stay at hoe dad. I encourage you to go check out this podcast as well as the website. Tim has an interesting view on things and gives great insight on a variety of topics. I hope to have him on the show in the future!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2017-04-16 23:45:44
Thanks Bob! I'd love to be on the radio for sure! And I have never heard the POLE before, but I like it! Thanks for sharing!
Bob Geyer
2017-04-14 17:10:15
Derek, Another great podcast. The radio show format is really good. I see a new career opportunity for you. Here is a new term for you. My wife calls me the Old POLE (Person of Limited Eyesight) . I have always said to people I have excellent vision I just have poor eyesight. Bob