Is myopia considered a disability?
In general, myopia (short-sightedness) is not considered a disability in Australia or New Zealand. It does not make a person eligible for government benefits etc. However, progressive and high myopia can lead to vision loss and blindness if left unmanaged and legal blindness is considered a disability.
The medical and legal definitions of vision-related issues don't always match up, which can be confusing.
Legally, they are only considered visual impairments or disabilities if they meet certain criteria:
Central visual acuity is 6/60 or worse.
The 6/60 threshold applies to the better eye.
The 6/60 threshold is met while wearing corrective lenses.
Peripheral vision in the better eye is reduced to 20 degrees or less of the visual field.
Visual acuity is typically measured using a Snellen chart. Someone with 6/6 (20/20 in the old Imperial system) acuity can read the small lines on the chart from 6 metres away. Someone with 6/60 acuity can only read the largest line from 6 metres away.
Medically, myopia is considered the leading cause of distance visual impairment worldwide, keep in mind that definitions and uses of the term visual impairment aren't the same around the world.
It's also important to keep in mind that globally, a vast number of people don't have access to corrective lenses. Even low myopia can negatively impact quality of life for those for whom glasses and contact lenses are not available.
Can a person with myopia be legally blind?
The degree of myopia a person can have ranges from low to high:
Low myopia: Up to -2.75 D
Moderate myopia: -3.00 D to -5.75 D
High myopia: -6.00 D and higher
For a person who has myopia, 6/60 uncorrected acuity would require a lens prescription around -2.00 D to -2.50 D. This is in the range of low myopia. Most people with low and moderate myopia can achieve 6/6 visual acuity with prescription glasses or contact lenses.
If a person has progressive myopia, that means their vision continues to get worse over time. Myopia progression usually begins in early childhood, and the earlier it begins, the higher it can progress. Progressive myopia can eventually lead to high myopia.
People with high myopia require a prescription of -6.00 D or more. This means their uncorrected acuity is about 6/180 or worse.
High myopia also drastically increases the risk for other serious vision complications, including:
Each of these conditions can cause significant vision loss or blindness.
Is wearing glasses a disability?
Wearing glasses is not considered a disability, regardless of the prescription strength. In fact, visual impairment is legally determined by "best corrected vision." This is a person's best visual acuity while wearing lenses.
Is myopia a VA disability?
No, myopia doesn't qualify as a disability with the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA disabilities must have been caused or made worse by a person's military service. Myopia is a refractive error that typically begins in childhood.
See your optometrist
It is critical for people who have progressive or high myopia to see their optometrist and possibly also their ophthalmologist regularly. Frequent eye exams help ensure that any complications from high myopia are found and managed as early as possible.
Beth Longware Duff also contributed to this article.
Blindness and vision impairments in the workplace and the ADA. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. May 2014.
Disability evaluation under Social Security. The United States Social Security Administration. Accessed June 2022.
Low vision and vision rehabilitation. American Optometric Association. Accessed June 2022.
Myopia: a global epidemic. Retina Today. September 2019.
How visual acuity is measured. Prevent Blindness. October 2003.
Eligibility for VA disability benefits. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. January 2022.
Page published on Tuesday, 17 March 2020
Page updated on Friday, 11 August 2023
Medically reviewed on Thursday, 30 June 2022