Is Being Visually Impaired the Same as Being Legally Blind?

Years ago, my school division sent me in Southern Ontario to follow a course that would prepare me to teach Braille to one of my future students. While studying over there, I did not only learn so much more than Braille but I also met two friends that were legally blind. One was using a white cane and large print while the other was blessed by the precious assistance of a guide-dog.

That is when my knowledge became not only practical but also part of my everyday life with them during my stay there. Believe me, I did not only learn about reading and writing Braille but also how to guide, play, prepare activities, explore and experience everyday tasks and activities like someone that either was born or became legally blind.

What is the difference between being visually impaired and legally blind?
Well, being visually impaired means that your vision is either affected by visual problems such as having no peripheral vision, having very low eyesight while it is superior to 5% or having problems seeing in certain areas of your vision such as in front, in spots, not seeing in 3-D or in color, etc.

What does “legally blind” means? All that it means is that your vision is 5% and less or that your visual impairments are so severe that the percentage of actual vision also fits in this category.

One thing that I soon discovered was that despite poor eyesight, it is amazing to see how acute other senses become with time. My friends made me pay attention to all the information that other senses give you but unfortunately as most people rely so much on visual cues, we tend to be oblivious to details and information that we come to take for granted.

My friends also explained to me how to describe an activity without forgetting important steps, how to guide someone effectively, how to act with and around a guide-dog and so much more.

As time went by, I also learned the emotional ups and downs associated with facing the difficulties related to gradually becoming legally blind, how to become independent and not depend on solely on others. And finally, dealing with the mourning involved with the loss of sight and the fact that they will never be able to enjoy fully the beauty of a sunset, butterflies and other visual treasures that we take for granted.

The most important lessons that I actually learned during this course is the fact that not only people should learn to appreciate the countless benefits of sight but also how to appreciate and live in visually impaired and legally blind people’s shoes by using a blindfold or specially designed goggles.