Visual impairment or low vision is a severe reduction in vision that cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses, reducing your ability to function at certain or all tasks. Legal blindness, which is a severe visual impairment, refers to a best-corrected central vision of 20/200 or worse in your better eye, or a visual acuity of better than 20/200 but with a visual field no greater than 20 degrees, i.e., side vision that is so reduced that it appears as if you are looking through a tunnel.
Total blindness is the inability to tell light from dark, or a complete inability to see.
The World Health Organization (WHO) divides “impaired vision” into five categories:
- Low Vision 1 is a best corrected visual acuity of 20/70.
- Low Vision 2 starts at 20/200.
- Blindness 3 is below 20/400.
- Blindness 4 is worse than 5/300
- Blindness 5 is no light perception at all.
- A visual field between 5° and 10° (compared with a normal visual field of about 120°) goes into category 3; less than 5° goes into category 4, even if the tiny spot of central vision is perfect.
There are many causes of vision loss. The leading causes of blindness include:
- Macular generation
- Diabetes mellitus
- Infectious diseases
- Multiple sclerosis
- Brain injuries and tumors
The Social Security Administration recognizes that your visual impairment can impact your day-to-day functioning, as well as your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. If your loss of vision precludes you from sustaining full time work for a year or longer, you may qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Administration.
Social Security Medical Listing 2.02 – Loss of Visual Acuity; 2.03 – Contraction of the Visual Field; 2.04 – Loss of Visual Efficiency
The Social Security Administration considers vision loss as a qualifying disability when there is a severe loss of vision in both eyes and the ability to see in the better eye is less than 20/200. You also may qualify for disability benefits if your peripheral vision is affected and your field of vision is less than 20 degrees in the better eye. You may be able to qualify for disability benefits if you can prove that your vision loss interferes with your ability to perform gainful employment. Usually this is possible when the vision loss is combined with other health conditions. You will need medical records and statements from your physicians to support your claim.
Your representative can help you determine whether your vision loss is severe enough for you to qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Administration.