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ETpro's avatar

OK, I understand "legally blind" but how does it differ from being "illegally blind"?

Asked by ETpro (34195 points ) June 17th, 2012

If there is no such thing as illegally blind, then why do we need a classification of blindness called legally blind. Why isn’t just plain blind clear enough?

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31 Answers

tranquilsea's avatar

LOL, I get what you’re saying. But the distinction, I believe, is for the folks that have some sight but aren’t completely blind. They meet a threshold that gives them access to more support thus being “legally blind”.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Because the level of aid you get from the Federal Government depends on how blind you are.

marinelife's avatar

Because you can still have some sight but be legally blind.

josie's avatar

See @WestRiverrat It’s a bureaucratic term.
Unless there were legal protections and government handouts involved, there would be no need for the modifier. But “legally blind” is sort of like “living in poverty”. It permits a sliding and arbitrary scale depending on who needs votes or who wants to play gotcha with the opposition.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Legally blind can include more people than what would be considered blind. A person who has incredibly blurry vision such that (for practical purposes) he might as well be blind would be considered legally blind. The person would not technically be blind since they can detect light vs dark and red vs yellow, but they would be unable to make out road signs or faces.

Symbeline's avatar

Legally blind isn’t being completely blind, but will apply to people with poor enough vision that they can’t drive a car, for example. A lot of legally blind people might get special benefits, kind of like how 100% blind folk might get a sight dog. It differs in that they’re blind enough to be considered handicapped, in a way. The whole legal ’‘thing’’, I believe is just a term.

wundayatta's avatar

Illegally blind is what they call it when you are pretending to be blind in order to get disability benefits.

Illegally blind is what happens when you achieve blindness in evil and nefarious ways.

Illegally blind is when you build a blind in the middle of extinct forest in order to kill yourself an albino unicorn.

Sunny2's avatar

The opposite of legally blind isn’t illegally blind. It’s totally blind, all darkness, no sight. Actually it’s a continuum with seeing at one end and blind at the other. All the various sight problems are in between from near and far sightedness to wearing reading glasses to tunnel vision to partial blindness to blind. Legally blind is sufficiently blind that the law considers you blind.
How’s that for a serious answer to a somewhat facetious question?

Coloma's avatar

Haha…well…perhaps “illegally” blind is more of a state of mind. The vast majority of humanoids are illegally blind. Operating on an unconscious level and unlikely to improve their vision through the Lasik of enlightened pursuits. Blind to the light vs. blind on the highway.

Everybody…...* Amaaaazing graaace, * lol

dabbler's avatar

Ain’t this a semantic mashup ?
The difference is not between ‘legally blind’ and ‘illegally blind’, the difference is between ‘blind for legal purposes’ and ‘not blind for legal purposes’.
I don’t think ‘illegally blind’ exists except for pretending to be ‘legally blind’ when you are not, as in @wundayatta‘s list… – i.e. a form of fraud.

GracieT's avatar

Like @marinelife said, my aunt, who is legally blind, can see some things. She is unable to see much other than big objects that are clearly defined, and she can’t really see anything peripherally. She is still classified legally blind. I wonder if the people that are “illegally” blind are the ones that didn’t ask first but were blind at birth? :0)

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was legally blind. That meant it was illegal for me to drive a car without my glasses or contacts on. I was freakin’ BLIND. It started in 4th grade. I changed prescriptions twice a year. By the time I was in 6th, 7th grade, and going to the pool with my friends, I could only identify my friends by the colors and patterns of their bathing suits. I couldn’t see their faces unless they were six inches away.

bewailknot's avatar

My eyesight is pretty bad. Without my glasses I cannot recognize people and if I drop the soap in the shower I can’t find it. My vision is correctable to 20/80 with glasses so I am not legally blind (20/200 in the better eye would be required for LB), but to use a computer I often have to use a magnifier format to read longer posts or posts using the tinier font.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My eyesight was something in the 2000’s. Like, 20/2400 or something hideous. Didn’t really know what the numbers meant. I remember taking my glasses off as a kid, tired, coming home from a drive in with my folks, resting my head on the back seat of the back seat, to see the big blobs of light that were lights, different colors. Hypnotic and comforting. I was always analyzing what I saw without my glasses, comparing it to what I saw with my glasses. In a lot of ways, I liked the world better without my glasses.

ETpro's avatar

@tranquilsea, @WestRiverrat, @marinelife & @josie Drat. I was told I was legally blind in my left eye before I got cataract surgery. I could make out large objects just looking through it. Walking along the sidewalk, I could see things as small as telephone poles, but could walk right into a street sign post without seeing it. And I didn’t even get 50% aid. :-)

@PhiNotPi I was way past being unable to make out faces. I could see a person if they contrasted with the background, but couldn’t tell what they looked like, just a general idea of how big they were.

@Symbeline I had to give up driving because even my “good” right eye had enough of a cataract I couldn’t read street signs until I was right up on them. The only “benefit” I got was voluntarily surrendering my license. Now that the left eye is fully healed and the right one is almost there, I an SO MUCH looking forward to getting my license back.

@wundayatta Illegally handicapped, kinda like the firefighter here in Boston who was on disability for a back injury until he got busted competing in a weight lifting and bodybuilding competition. At least he paid us citizens back a bit with the laughs he provided trying to cook up a lie big enough to explain the fraud.

@Sunny2 Indeed it is a continuum of sightedness, and I’ve now explored a good deal of it. And it was asked tongue in cheek. I was thinking about my having been legally blind in the left eye, and the thought jumped into my head, what’s illegal blindness.

@Coloma A state of mind, indeed. I thought that perhaps illegal blindness should be the act of shutting perfectly good eyes to evidence one’s biases make them unwilling to see.

@dabbler Perhaps it used to be just a semantic mashup, but I like the meaning @Coloma and I attached to it.

@GracieT Sorry to hear about your aunt. Is there anything medical science can do for her?

@ZEPHYRA How sad. At least the majority there voted to do the responsible thing, but with so much corruption and so many tax scofflaws I wonder if they can turn it around. And to think Greece was once the most advanced and educated nation on Earth.

@Dutchess_III Did you get your vision corrected?

@bewailknot Sorry to hear that. Any hope for vision correction?

Sunny2's avatar

@ETpro I love it when the questioner replies to all the answers the way you did very much.. It’s not something I think I could do. Thanks

ETpro's avatar

@Sunny2 Thanks. I try to do so. Sometimes when the hour is late and a question has a ton of responses, I fall short. But I do always want to acknowledge all answers.

GracieT's avatar

@ETpro, I don’t know if she even wants to. I’ve never asked her. She handles it well. It’s just a part of her, and she’s not seen well for most of her life.

Coloma's avatar

@ETpro Indeed! my biggest pet peeve, those that refute any and all evidence to the contrary of their rigidly held opinions/beliefs. Gah….it’s a wonder I don’t dwell in a permanent state of concussion after some of the rock hard mindsets I’ve banged my logic up against. lolol

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ETpro Yes, when I was 40-something and lasik came out. I passed on the first round because they used scalpels. I knew computer-controlled laser would replace that eventually, and it did. So I got it then. Talk about a dream come true!

Symbeline's avatar

@ETpro Yeah, I’m not entirely sure how many benefits, if even any, legally blind people get. It may vary from country to country and state/province. :/ Now that you mention the license issue, it may be more restrictions rather than benefits.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I sincerely doubt there are benefits for people, like me, who were “legally blind,” but the situation was easily corrected with glasses. I don’t know about other kinds.

bewailknot's avatar

@ETpro I have never been evaluated for surgical correction since I don’t have the money. I do have cataracts now (and that type of surgery would be covered by my insurance) but they aren’t bad enough to require surgery yet.

ETpro's avatar

@GracieT It’s certainly her choice. If she’s learned to cope, I can understand why she micht just leave it as it is.

@Coloma Amen to that.

@Dutchess_III I’m really glad that lasik came along for you. My son as well. He was terribly near sighted. I’m pretty sure you are right that there are no benefits to a classification of legally blind if the condition can be remedied with eye-wear.

@Symbeline Restrictions was all it ever got me. I could have applied for service with The Ride, an MBTA service that gives you taxi-like transportation door to door at $2.50 one way and is available to anyone with enough of a handicap to have problems getting around. I just never filled in the paperwork for it, because I could get wherever I needed to go on public transportation and foot.

@bewailknot Are you certain your insurance wouldn’t cover surgical correction?

bewailknot's avatar

@ETpro Yes, unfortunately.

ETpro's avatar

@bewailknot That bites. How long till Medicare?

bewailknot's avatar

@ETpro Too long – 8 years

ETpro's avatar

@bewailknot My sympathy.

bewailknot's avatar

@ETpro Thanks. I was talking to the benefits person at work and she suggested I try to get a referral using my health insurance instead of the vision plan. I already have an appointment with my PCP in the middle of July – maybe something will come of it.

ETpro's avatar

@bewailknot Here’s hoping that pans out for you.

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