Why do blind people wear sunglasses?

blind man wearing sunglasses outdoors with seeing eye dog

From UV protection to style preferences, blind people tend to wear sunglasses for many of the same reasons as those who can see.

For example, visually impaired people may choose to wear sunglasses to reduce brightness, improve vision, reduce the chances of developing eye-related ailments and, of course, to shield their eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays

Let’s take a closer look at the reasons visually impaired people wear sunglasses:

SEE RELATED: What does “legally blind” mean?

UV protection

Whether you are legally blind or have 20/20 vision, sunglasses are a must for anyone spending time in the sun. 

Ultraviolet light exposure can be extremely damaging to the unshielded eye and is linked to significant eye problems, including macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia and photokeratitis.

Because many visually impaired individuals have little to no ability to detect bright light, it’s vital for them to wear sunglasses before venturing outside.  

WHICH SUNGLASSES OFFER THE BEST UV PROTECTION? Visit an optical shop near you or shop online.

Improve vision

Contrary to popular belief, most visually impaired people aren’t entirely blind. 

In fact, the term “visual impairment” describes a range of disability, from very limited sight to total blindness. According to VisionAware, approximately 85% of all individuals with visual impairment have some sight; whereas, only about 15% are totally blind.

For people with sight issues, sunglasses help dial down light intensity, making it easier to make out shapes and shadows. 

It is also common for the visually impared to experience peripheral vision loss, commonly referred to as tunnel vision. Sunglasses reduce glare, thereby helping to improve the range of sight.  

SEE RELATED: Visual acuity: Is “20/20” perfect vision?

Protect the eyes from contamination or injury

Many people who are visually impaired wear sunglasses both indoors and out to add an extra layer of protection against smaller physical dangers. 

Because it is difficult or impossible for the visually impaired to see and turn away or shield their eyes from potential hazards (e.g., wind debris, low-hanging branches, etc.), they wear sunglasses to help keep their eyes safe. 

Much like safety eyewear for sports and hazardous work environments, sunglasses can provide an effective barrier to prevent blind people from being hit or poked in the eye.

To alert others

Many sight-impaired people wear sunglasses to convey to others that they’re blind. 

Like a white cane or guide dog, sunglasses can act simultaneously as a visual cue and a tool to assist blind people in social settings. This can be especially useful in crowded public places, as these visual identifiers help people to know the blind or visually impaired need their pathways cleared or may need assistance. 

Do blind people wear special sunglasses? 

It is not uncommon for blind people to wear non-prescription (or plano) sunglasses to protect their eyes from ultraviolet light and physical debris, but others may need something a little more specific. 

For example, some vision impairment may require eyewear that filters out specific colors of light. And, again, not all who are visually impaired are fully blind; thus, some may wear prescription sunglasses to help enhance the sight they do have. 

There are also low-vision specialists who offer the latest vision aids and digital devices to maximize eyesight. 

So while vision needs vary widely, it’s important to remember that blind people wear sunglasses for the many of the very same reasons as the sighted: to keep their eyes safe and comfortable.

FIND THE RIGHT SUNGLASSES FOR YOUR NEEDS: Shop for sunglasses at an optical store near you or an online eyewear retailer.  

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