Myths about Blindness and Visual Impairments

Myth #1: Babies can see at birth.

We are born without anatomically developed eyes! Our vision at birth is by no means fully developed. Newborn babies see little more than the difference between light and dark. We all must learn to see, just as we learn to talk. The learning process takes place gradually from birth and is completed before age 6.

Myth #2: Children should have the first eye examination when they enter the first grade.

Every child's eyes should be examined by a medical doctor by age 3. If no problems are noted, the next exam should be around age 6. If the physician does detect any problems that might interfere with the child's learning, the difficulty may be corrected at a young age, allowing the child's vision to develop normally.

Myth #3: If you cannot see well in the dark, you have night blindness, which is a common problem.

Night blindness is not at all common. Night blindness can be a symptom of an eye disease called retinitis pigmemtosa and should be checked out by an eye doctor. Most people have more trouble seeing at night simply because it is harder to see when there is less light.

Myth #4: You should eat carrots because they improve your ability to see in the dark.

Supplementing your diet with vitamin A, which has been linked to eye health and is found in carrots, will not necessarily improve your vision.

Myth #5: People who are colorblind see only in black and white.

Persons who are colorblind perceive colors less vividly than the normal seeing person. Their world is rarely monochromatic.

Myth #6: Cataracts can be surgically removed only when they are ripe.

Cataracts, unlike a tomato, do not "ripen." Cataracts can remain stable or get progressively worse (more opaque). Surgery is performed when the patient's vision is so impaired that it interferes with activities of daily life.

Myth #7: You can tell if you have glaucoma because you will experience eye pain, see halos around lights, have excessive tearing, or your eyes will bother you in some way.

One type of glaucoma is painful. The most common type, however, causes no pain at all and is usually without symptoms until the disease is far advanced.

Myth #8: Sitting too close to the television or movie screen is bad for your eyes.

You cannot injure your eyes in any way by sitting close to the television or movie screen. Sit where you feel the most comfortable.

Myth #9: If you read or do a lot of close work, you will ruin your eyes and make yourself need glasses.

Optical errors are never caused by reading or any other heavy visual demand. The causes of the refractive errors are in the workings of the eye. People who read a lot may be more aware of possible refraction errors. Symptoms such as eyestrain and headaches may appear. The presence of the symptoms usually motivates the person to seek correction with lenses (glasses).

Myth #10: Cheap sunglasses are bad for your eyes.

Good sunglasses are recommended because they usually have sturdier frames and higher quality lenses that filter out harmful infrared or ultraviolet light. However, inexpensive sunglasses won't necessarily injure your eyes.

Myth #11: Individuals who are blind have a sixth sense or extra ordinary talents.

Usually a combination of hard work and the development of a good memory will permit people experiencing a vision loss to function very well. The "sixth sense" is a poetic phrase having no foundation or truth.

Myth #12: People who are blind or visually impaired are always in total darkness, seeing nothing at all.

Only about 15% of the visually impaired population "see" only total darkness. The majority of individuals who are visually impaired have some residual vision, whether it is light perception, color perception, or form perception.

Myth #13: Students who are blind or visually impaired shouldn't participate in physical activities for fear of losing their remaining sight or because they can't see what they are doing to participate.

Physical limitations should be determined by a medical examination. However, physical education and recreational activities need to be encouraged for everyone. The activities improve motor skills, coordination, and visual and auditory perceptual skills. Most physical activity can be easily adapted to allow an individual who is visually impaired to participate.

Myth #14: An individual's functional vision can fluctuate from day to day or during different hours of the day.

Depending on the cause and prognosis of the eye disorder, usable vision can vary from day to day or hour to hour. Teachers and caregivers should take note of the times of day, lighting conditions, weather conditions, etc. to help the individual assess his vision changes.

Myth #15: All individuals who are visually impaired wear some form of corrective lenses.

Glasses cannot correct all visual impairments. The need for lenses is dependent upon the diagnosis of the eye problems, the age of the patient, and the individual needs of the patient.

Myth #16: Large print books enable all visually impaired persons to see better.

Many visually impaired persons are able to read regular-sized print books. Large print books, however, have print that is larger than standard books and allow persons who have difficulty reading smaller print to more easily see the words on the page.

Myth #17: A dog guide knows where to go and how to get there without the master telling him.

Dog guides are trained from about one year of age to respond to traffic, street travel, and the commands the master gives. The individual who is visually impaired, before using a dog guide, goes through extensive and intensive training on how to use the dog. It is the master who knows where they are going, not the dog.

Last Revised: November 11, 2014