Is myopia considered a disability?
In general, myopia (shortsightedness) is not considered a disability in the UK. It does not make a person eligible for government benefits. However, progressive and high myopia can lead to vision loss and blindness if left unmanaged. Legal blindness is considered a disability and a patient can be registered as sight impaired, or severely sight impaired which can open them to options of certain government benefits
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:
Generally, to be certified as severely sight impaired (blind), your sight has to fall into one of the following categories, while wearing any glasses or contact lenses that you may need:
Visual acuity of less than 3 / 60 with a full visual field.
Visual acuity between 3 / 60 and 6 / 60 with a severe reduction of field of vision, such as tunnel vision.
Visual acuity of 6 / 60 or above but with a very reduced field of vision, especially if a lot of sight is missing in the lower part of the field.
To be certified as sight impaired (partially sighted) your sight has to fall into one of the following categories, while wearing any glasses or contact lenses that you may need:
Visual acuity of 3 / 60 to 6 / 60 with a full field of vision.
Visual acuity of up to 6 / 24 with a moderate reduction of field of vision or with a central part of vision that is cloudy or blurry.
Visual acuity of 6 / 18 or even better if a large part of your field of vision, for example a whole half of your vision, is missing or a lot of your peripheral vision is missing.
Visual acuity is typically measured using a Snellen chart. Someone with 20/20 acuity can read the small lines from 20 feet away. Someone with 20/200 acuity can only read the largest line from 20 feet away.
Medically, myopia is considered the leading cause of distance visual impairment worldwide. But 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 without spectacles and contact lenses 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, 20/200 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 20/20 visual acuity with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses.
But 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 20/600 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 corrective lenses.
See your doctor
It is critical for people who have progressive or high myopia to see their optometrist regularly. Frequent eye examinations help ensure that any complications from high myopia are found and managed as early as possible.
Beth Longware Duff also contributed to this article.
Page published on Friday, 28 June 2019
Page updated on Thursday, 15 June 2023
Medically reviewed on Thursday, 30 June 2022