Questions Kids and Parents Ask about Blindness

Courtesy of the National Federation of the Blind's Frequently Asked Questions resource

Many children, those who are sighted as well as those who are blind, wish to learn more about blindness, as do parents and other adults who are involved in a blind child's life. It is important for all to learn that blindness will not prevent a person from living a happy and normal life to the best of his or her abilities.

General

What causes blindness?

There are many conditions that can cause blindness. For simplicity, we equate "blindness" with "legally blind," defined as visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in the better eye with best correction possible. Sometimes babies are born blind, but most blind people become blind later on. Glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy are the three most common causes of blindness today. Many older persons lose their vision from macular degeneration. Some people become blind through accidents.

How does it feel to be blind?

When you are newly blind, in the beginning, it can feel frustrating or scary. This is because you have not learned how to do things for yourself as a blind person. But once you learn the skills that blind people use, you no longer feel that way. Blind people do the same things as sighted people. We go to school or work, and we do the things that we need to do. We do this naturally, without even thinking about being blind. The blindness becomes just another part of who we are and what we are like. We don't think about being blind every day, just like you don't think every day about whether or not you have red hair or brown hair.

Will I learn more about blindness if I close my eyes or wear a blindfold?

No, it is not a good idea to try to pretend to be blind. As a matter of fact, you could get just the opposite impression about what it is like to be blind. You might have a hard time finding things, you might bump into things, you might knock something over, or you might hurt yourself. You might feel frightened, frustrated or confused; then you might think this is what it is like for blind people. But it is not like that for us. Blind people (depending on how long they've been blind) have training and experience that you do not have, and we know how to do things (sometimes differently) that you do not. It is easier for us than it would be for you. If you want to learn more about blindness, instead of pretending to be blind, you might want to ask a blind person to talk with you. Perhaps you will want to contact a local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.

Do blind people feel bad about being blind? Do they like to talk about it?

Most blind people are too busy to think about blindness very much. But being blind is nothing to be ashamed of. Blindness is a perfectly respectable characteristic of a person. Most blind people would be glad to answer any questions you have about blindness, just ask them. When someone first loses sight, then he or she might be unhappy. After receiving special help to learn how to do things as a blind person and having a more positive attitude about being blind, then a person can learn to feel okay about blindness.