All stereotypes of people who are blind or low vision achieve one end.
They “remove [the person who is blind or visually impaired] from the realm of the ordinary, everyday world of plain people, and [place the person] in a limbo of abnormality…where the person is without responsibility, without rights, and without society.”*
Thus, myths and misconceptions do a great injustice.
Even today, they pervade our everyday thinking and affect how we interact with people who are blind or low vision.
Listed below are just a few of these myths and the facts** that tell the real story.
- MYTH: "Blindness is a tragedy. For people who suffer from blindness, life has lost all meaning. People who are blind or low vision are mentally retarded or less informed."
FACT: With proper training and opportunity, the average person who is blind or low vision can compete in terms of equality with the average person who is sighted. In other words, the person who is blind or visually impaired can be as happy and lead as full a life as anybody else.
- MYTH: "People who are blind or low vision are helpless and require supervision in their daily activities for safety’s sake."
FACT: People who are blind or low vision are by and large much more independent than others give them credit for. Many are mobile and independent. Many view their blindness as a mere physical nuisance and not a disability.
- MYTH: "All people who are blind or low vision see nothing at all. People who are blind or visually impaired are always in total darkness."
FACT: Only about 10-15% of people who are blind or low vision “see” total darkness. The majority of people who are considered blind have some sight, rather than no sight at all. That is, they have some residual vision, whether it is light perception, color perception, or form perception.
- MYTH: "A person’s other senses become more acute after the onset of blindness or low vision. People who are blind or visually impaired have 'super' hearing."
FACT: Blindness does not entail compensatory powers. Although one may learn to pay greater attention to one’s hearing, for example, the hearing does not actually organically improve
- MYTH: "People who are blind or low vision often possess a sixth sense and are psychic or able to foresee the future. All people who are blind or visually impaired are musically gifted."
FACT: For people who are blind or low vision, there are no miraculous new powers awakening, no strange new perceptions, no brave new worlds to explore.
- MYTH: "All people who are blind or low vision wear dark glasses."
FACT: The need for any type of low vision aid (e.g. glasses, magnifier, etc.) is contingent upon the individual situation and preferences of the person who is blind or low vision.
- MYTH: "All people who are blind or low vision use a cane."
FACT: Less than 2% of Americans who are blind or low vision use a cane for orientation and mobility.
- MYTH: "Dog guides know where to go and how to get there without their handlers telling them."
FACT: The handlers know where they are going, not the dog guides.
- MYTH: "Dog guides let their master know when the traffic light has turned to green."
FACT: Dog guides cannot tell red lights from green lights in traffic. Rather, the person who is blind or low vision listens to the flow of traffic, determines when it is safe to cross, and then signals the dog to go forward. However, if a car is coming, the dog is taught to refuse to obey the command.
*Provided by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, “Blindness: Is Literature Against Us?”
**Provided by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, “Blindness – A Left-Handed Dissertation;”
the Badger Association of the Blind; the National Federation for the Blind (NFB); the National Center for Health Statistics, 1994; CyberVPM.com, Resources for Volunteer Programs; and Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.