Yes, individuals who are blind or have significant visual impairments can qualify for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits through SSDI and SSI programs.

To qualify for the blind disability benefits, an applicant needs to submit medical evidence that may prove their disability is preventing them from engaging in day-to-day activities. Furthermore, they need to prove their disability has lasted for at least 12 months or more.

What Is Blindness?

The SSA has a specific definition of blindness, which usually involves having a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye using a correcting lens or a limitation in your visual field to 20 degrees diameter or less.

Blindness is a visual impairment characterized by the complete or near-complete loss of sight ability. It’s a condition in which an individual’s eyesight is severely impaired to the point where they cannot perceive visual stimuli, distinguish objects, or perceive light. 

Is blindness a Disability Under The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Yes, blindness is generally considered a disability in work and employment. Various laws and regulations exist to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in the workplace. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment.

Is blindness Considered a Long-Term Disability?

Yes, blindness is typically considered a long-term disability as it is a permanent condition that significantly affects a person’s ability to perform daily activities and work. Blind individuals often qualify for Social Security disability benefits and accommodations to support their needs.

Types Of Blindness

Blindness can be categorized into different types based on the underlying causes and the specific visual functions affected. Some common types of blindness:

  • Total Blindness: Total blindness refers to the complete absence of vision. Individuals who are blind cannot perceive light, shapes, colors, or any visual information.
  • Partial Blindness: Partial blindness, also known as visual impairment, encompasses a range of conditions with some remaining level of vision, but it is significantly limited. 
  • Congenital Blindness: Congenital blindness is present from birth and can be caused by genetic factors, developmental issues during pregnancy, or other congenital conditions affecting the eyes or visual pathways.
  • Acquired Blindness: Acquired blindness refers to the loss of vision after birth. It can result from various causes, including eye diseases, injuries, infections, and medical conditions.
  • Cortical Blindness: Cortical blindness occurs when the brain’s primary visual cortex is damaged, preventing the brain from processing visual information correctly. 

Common Symptoms of Blindness

Symptoms of blindness can vary depending on the underlying cause and the degree of visual impairment. Some of the common symptoms:

  • Loss of Vision: The most apparent symptom is significant vision loss. This can range from difficulty seeing fine details to a complete absence of visual perception.
  • Inability to See Light: Some individuals might not be able to perceive light at all. This can result in complete darkness, even in well-lit environments.
  • Difficulty Recognizing Objects: Individuals with vision loss might have trouble recognizing objects, people’s faces, or other visual stimuli.
  • Blurred Vision: Blurriness or distortion of visual images can occur, making it difficult to see things.
  • Reduced Peripheral Vision: Loss of peripheral vision, also known as tunnel vision, is common in some eye conditions. 

Blindness can also trigger many disorders, such as anxiety, diabetes-related retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and depression

Eligibility Criteria For Blindness Disability

The eligibility criteria for receiving disability benefits related to blindness are as follows:

Legal Blindness: You must meet the legal definition of blindness, which often involves proving that your visual impairment meets the criteria set by the SSA.

Duration of Impairment: Your blindness must be expected to last for at least 12 months or be terminal.

Inability to Work: Your blindness must prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (work) as determined by the SSA.

Work Credits: For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you’ll also need to have earned enough work credits by paying Social Security taxes over time. On the other hand, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a need-based program and doesn’t require work credits, but income and asset limits exist.

Medical Evidence: You’ll need to provide medical evidence of your blindness, including documentation from medical professionals and specialists who have examined your condition.

Complete Blindness And Partial Visual Loss

Central Visual Acuity – Listing 2.02

SSA has mentioned rules for vision loss under listing 2.02. To meet the eligibility requirements of the SSA for visual acuity, a disability applicant must have vision in their better eye as 20/200 or even worse. This is known as partial or statutory blindness. It means you can see but you meet the listing 2.02. 

If you have total blindness, you will win Social Security disability benefits automatically. Along with this, you will also be paid the benefits if your central visual efficiency is less than or is 20%. This efficiency is determined by kinetic perimetry. 

Applicants who have vision worse than 20/200 in one eye and in another eye vision better than 20/200 will not qualify for the benefits according to listing 2.02. 

Statutory Blindness

An applicant will get approved for the benefits according to the Social Security Act if their vision meets the requirements for statutory blindness. It refers to central visual acuity of 20/200 or even less than in the better eye along with using corrective glasses or lenses. 

Eyes that have limitations in the visual fields or are unable to extend to an angle of 20 degrees or not greater than that will have central visual acuity of 20/200 or even less. 

If the applicant meets these requirements, they will qualify for statutory blindness. If you do not meet this criterion, the SSA will review why you are unable to work or what prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

According to Title 16 or for SSI only, there is no duration for blindness. If you are blind and meet the SSI program requirements such as low income and asset value, you will be paid benefits. If you meet the statutory blindness requirement, there will be no 12-month duration time.  

How To Apply For Blindness Disability Benefits?

Applying for blindness disability benefits typically involves several steps to demonstrate your eligibility for support due to visual impairment. 

  • Collect essential documents: Medical records, diagnosis details, and documentation from eye specialists confirming your visual impairment, its severity, and its impact on your daily life.
  • Review the eligibility criteria: You need to check the eligibility criteria of the chosen program, such as SSDI or SSI.
  • Complete Application: Fill out the form accurately, providing all required information about your medical condition, work history, and other relevant details.
  • Medical Evidence: Attach medical documentation supporting your visual impairment diagnosis. 
  • Submit Application: Submit your completed application and supporting documents as directed by the program.
  • Review Decision: Once your application is processed, you’ll receive a review decision. You’ll receive information about your benefits and any necessary next steps if approved.
  • Appeal if Necessary: You can appeal the decision if your application is denied.

How Much Disability Do You Get If You Are Legally Blind?

Blind disabled applicants will receive up to $2,590 every month for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in the year 2024. The amount for blind disabled workers is higher for SSDI in comparison to non-blind workers. This is because non-blind applicants can earn up to $1,550 every month. However, a disability attorney may help you with how much disability benefits you may get monthly. 

Need Legal Help? Contact a Disability Attorney

Whether you need assistance with disability benefits, accommodations, or navigating legal complexities, a Social Security disability lawyer can provide guidance. They understand the intricacies of disability law and can help you navigate the legal process to secure support and rights.

FAQs On Blindness Disability Benefits

Blindness can significantly impact daily life by limiting one's ability to perform tasks that rely on vision, such as reading, driving, or recognizing faces. It can lead to challenges in education, employment, and social interactions, requiring adaptive techniques and assistive technologies for independent living.
One of the leading causes of blindness globally is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), particularly in older individuals. AMD affects the central vision and can result in severe vision loss or blindness. Other significant causes include glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts, each contributing to many blindness cases worldwide.
Legally blind is often defined as having a central visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in the better eye with the best possible correction or a visual field that is limited to 20 degrees in diameter or less. This means that a person with 20/200 vision would need to be 20 feet away from an object as clearly as someone with normal vision could see it from 200 feet away.