What Is Legal Blindness?

The following article discusses the U.S. Government’s definition of legal blindness.

What Is Legal Blindness? in Hixson

Legal blindness as defined by the U.S. Government does not mean that a person has no vision at all, nor is it synonymous with a medical diagnosis of low vision. That is to say, that while a person with a diagnosis of low vision may in certain circumstances meet the U.S. Government’s standard of legal blindness, the reverse is not necessarily true. Only a low vision optometrist is qualified to make a diagnosis of low vision.

Legal blindness reflects the U.S. Government's definition of the term which may entitle people to government disability benefits, and will likely prevent them from legally driving a motor vehicle in many states.  This definition of legal blindness takes into account visual acuity and visual field. Visual acuity refers to the sharpness of vision at a distance of 20 feet. Visual field refers to all that the eye can see when it focuses on a fixed point. 

The U.S. government’s definition is as follows: 

  • If you cannot reach better than 20/200 with corrective measures in the best eye
  • If you have 20 degrees or less of your field of vision
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What Conditions Cause Legal Blindness?

Causes of blindness include:

  • Blindness from birth: Some people may be born with visual deficiencies that meet this criterion.
  • Blindness from medical and eye conditions:  There are many disorders and types of eye disease that can affect the optic nerve such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, best disease, stargardt, retinitis pigmentosa, ocular albinism, age-related macular degeneration, and other ocular disorders
  • Injury/trauma: Injuries can lead to visual deficits that meet this legal standard.

Symptoms or Conditions of Possible Legal Blindness

Signs of possible visual deficits that meet this standard are not monolithic and they will vary according to individuals. Schedule an appointment right away if you notice any of the following:

  • difficulty with peripheral vision
  • tunnel vision
  • difficulty with central vision
  • blind spots
  • difficulty with night vision
  • cloudiness



Speak with our low vision optometrist to discuss how to proceed following a diagnosis of legal blindness. The emotional impact can be difficult. The good news is that with proper intervention regain their ability to do the things they loved doing before vision loss

Symptoms or Conditions of Possible Legal Blindness
Various interventions include:

Various interventions include:

  • Vision aids and vision devices such as magnifiers, specialty glasses, lighting, assistive technologies, prisms, and telescopic optical aids.
  • Vision therapy or rehabilitation to learn how to maximize residual vision
  • Emotional help: Speaking with psychologists, social workers, and emotional health counselors are often very helpful for those learning to cope emotionally with this condition.

Common Questions

Not necessarily. There are degrees of blindness. It is a government definition of visual impairment, but it doesn't mean that you have complete blindness.
Many people have found support on our page, resources and links for people with low vision.
What Is Legal Blindness?
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Definition of Legal Blindness

You can't diagnose yourself with legal blindness. Contact our low vision optometrist to schedule an examination to assess visual acuity and field of vision, both of which are essential for a thorough evaluation. It is relatively easy to determine if a person meets the legal criteria for blindness. If you have been diagnosed with legal blindness, speak with our optometrist to create a plan for maximizing your vision and living a normal life. Patients with low vision visit our clinic from all over Tennessee, and we are proud to be a leading provider of low vision services for patients from Hixson, Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Middle Valley.

Related Articles


Vision therapy is well worth the response, time and effort. Our Son had a hard time focusing and writing neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time if previously took. His abilities to focus improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent, we wanted learning to be fun for our Son, and vision therapy made this possible.

Amanda T.

Vision Therapy is well worth the expense, time and effort. Our son had a hard time focusing handwriting neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time it previously took his abilities to focus and improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent you wanted learning to be fun for our son and vision therapy made this possible.

Alexa H.

Vision Therapy has given or son the tools he needs to be able to scan and read the written word more effectively and efficiently.

He love working with John and these working sessions give him the motivation to gladly work on his homework assignments.

It amazed us to see the difference in the tracking of his eyes and along a line of it's from the beginning to the end of the treatment.

Dr. McBryar , Kristen and John  are all marvelous and we would recommend them to anyone I only wish that we would have found them sooner!

Charlotte M.

Prior to coming to the institute for vision development my son complained of daily headaches. Therapy has eliminated his headaches completely. I love knowing my son is able to learn pain-free for the rest of his life because of the work that has been done over just a few weeks in this office. He he absolutely loved coming that didn't even feel like going to a doctor or therapy. We are grateful for the relief he was able to find by coming here.

Thank you!

Olivia C.

Seems much less frustrated with life

Reads non-stop and fast

Spelling abilities have been hugely improved

Seems much more confident

Thank You!!!

Kelly O.

When we first came to the practice, my son did not have huge issues, but lots of small ones- trouble with reading, sports (hitting the baseball consistently), coordination, etc- that were not easily detectable,but when put together presented issues. The staff here were all very professional and loving towards him. While I was concerned in the reading, my son was concerned with the athletic side. Seeing improvement night off the bat gave him confidence that i have nor seen in him and made him want to not only Come to therapy, but also made him want to work hard. He has surpassed his grade level and above in reading and hit his first home run this year! Thank you!!!

Alice M.
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