alt=a worried man wearing glasses covers one eye with his hand

What Happens if I Become Legally Blind?

Last updated: December 2021

Most of us won’t but some of us may actually become legally blind in one or both eyes. One of my eyes progressed from dry AMD to geographic atrophy (GA). It took 9 years but just this past year I went from 20/30 to 20/400 in one of my eyes. This eye used to be my “good eye”, now my wet AMD eye with over 80 injections of anti-VEGF medicine is the good one! My new “good eye” varies from 20/30 to 20/40.

Adjusting to my new normal

Let me tell you, it’s been quite an adjustment! Here are just a few things that happened as a result:

  • No more night driving
  • Peripheral vision is now a problem
  • Walking down stairs, it’s easy to miss the last step
  • Filling a glass with liquid, setting the glass down on the table
  • Reading is now only on devices with enlarged font and better light/dark contrast

So, what is legal blindness anyway?

Most people have heard the term but do not know what it means. Legal blindness is a standard measurement of visual acuity determined by the U.S. Social Security Administration. It is defined as vision no better than 20/200 in both eyes. Let me repeat that: BOTH EYES! So, I am not considered legally blind because one of my eyes is still rocking 20/30 on a good day and 20/40 on most days.1

Can you be legally blind in one eye?

No. The vision in both eyes must be 20/200 or less.

Are you legally blind if your vision meets the requirement only without corrective lenses?

No. Legally blind applies to those whose vision cannot be corrected by glasses or contacts.

Is your driver's license revoked if classified as legally blind?

No. The DMV does not require anyone to report if they are legally blind. However, your eye doctor may advise you to stop driving long before you reach legal blindness. Many states require at least 20/40 in one eye to renew your driver's license, mine does.  

This restriction can be deferred with a letter from your eye doctor if they deem you still safe to drive. You may be restricted to daylight driving only. It behooves us to err on the side of safety for ourselves and others.

Is legal blindness the same as actual blindness?

No. Only about 15% of people who are legally blind are totally blind. 85% have impaired vision.

I sometimes do an experiment where I close my “good eye” and walk all around inside and outside of my house using only my “bad eye.” My peripheral vision is as good as it ever was. It’s certainly not optimal and I have to go slowly and use caution. But I am able to do it. So no, most of us aren’t going to go Helen Keller or Ray Charles blind! We’ll always have our peripheral vision.  Remember, this is AMD we’re talking about not Stargardt, severe glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa.

“Dont worry, be happy”

Don’t let the idea of legal blindness paralyze you. As the famous song says; “Everything gonna be alright!” I know I will be alright and I hope you will too. Wishing us well on our shared journey.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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