Is myopia (short-sightedness) a disability?

Myopia is not a disability. Also called shortsightedness, myopia is a common refractive error of the eye that causes distant objects to appear blurry.

Generally, a disability is defined as a condition that prevents a person from accomplishing one or more activities in their daily living. The vision problems caused by myopia usually are easily corrected with prescription glasses or contact lenses. And while some people may not consider wearing corrective lenses to be "normal," having to wear them is certainly not a disability.

Myopia also is not considered a visual impairment. That's because a visual impairment generally is defined as reduced vision that cannot be corrected by usual means, such as spectacles or contact lenses. Visual impairments typically are caused by disease, trauma, and congenital or degenerative conditions.

Other refractive errors that affect vision but are not diseases or disabilities are longsightedness and astigmatism. As with myopia, vision problems caused by longsightedness and astigmatism typically can be fully corrected with spectacles and contact lenses.

A person with myopia sees near objects clearly but distant objects appear blurry. A person with longsightedness (also called hyperopia) typically sees distant objects clearly but has trouble with objects that are close up. Astigmatism causes a distorted appearance of objects at all distances. They appear as elongated shapes with blurry, streaked or stretched borders.

Vision conditions can progress over time to a point where they may affect a person's daily life more seriously. For example, severe shortsightedness known as high myopia is associated with complications like glaucomacataracts and retinal detachment.

While all we've said here is true in our modern, western society, it is not the same for more than 2.5 billion people across the world who do not have access to eye-care or even glasses. Some 250 million people are considered to have 'preventable blindness', they are deemed legally blind but for the sake of a pair of glasses. Vision 2020, the International Agency to Prevent Blindness and many other Foundations and charities are fighting this global problem.

Refractive errors are diagnosed by an optometrist during a comprehensive eye exam. If it's been more than a year since your last eye exam, visit an optometrist near you.

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