How does a blind person see? Popular Questions

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How does a blind person see? The perception of what blind individuals see has long been shrouded in misconception. A common belief is that blindness equates to total absence of vision. However, the reality is far more nuanced, as the visual experience of blind individuals varies significantly based on the underlying causes of their condition. This article seeks to unravel the complexities surrounding what blind people see, challenging preconceived notions and shedding light on the diverse visual landscapes shaped by different diseases.

What do blind people see?

Does a blind person see black

When examining the world of blind individuals, a fundamental question arises: “Do blind people just see black?” This inquiry delves into the intricate realm of blindness and the diverse experiences of those navigating it. Contrary to popular assumptions, blindness doesn’t uniformly translate to perceiving complete darkness or blackness. The perception of sight among blind individuals varies significantly, contingent upon the underlying cause and characteristics of their visual impairment. Some may encounter absolute darkness, while others discern light, shapes, or even colors to varying degrees. In this article, we aim to unravel the manifold visual encounters of blind individuals, demystifying this often-misunderstood facet of blindness.

What do you see if you’re blind?

Blind From Birth

Individuals who have never had sight do not perceive darkness. Samuel, born blind, clarifies that saying a blind person sees black is inaccurate because there is no frame of reference for sight. “It’s just nothingness,” he explains. For those with vision, a helpful analogy is to close one eye and ponder what the closed eye sees – essentially, nothing. Another comparison is likening a blind person’s sight to what one sees with their elbow.

Went Totally Blind

What do completely blind people see? Those who lose their sight undergo diverse experiences. Some describe total darkness, resembling the sensation of being in a cave. Others witness sparks or encounter vivid visual hallucinations, indicative of Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS), where shapes, colors, or flashes of light manifest. CBS may be temporary or enduring and is not a mental illness.

Functional Blindness

Besides total blindness, there is functional blindness, varying by definition worldwide. In the U.S., it signifies visual impairment where corrected vision in the better eye is worse than 20/200. The World Health Organization defines blindness as visual acuity worse than 3/60. The perception of functionally blind individuals hinges on the severity and type of impairment.

Legally Blind 

Legally blind individuals might see large objects or people, albeit blurred. Some can distinguish colors or see clearly at specific distances. Joey, with 20/400 vision, notes seeing dynamic neon speckles. Experiences vary, encompassing loss of color acuity or overall haziness.

Can blind people see light

An individual with light perception possesses the capability to discern the contrast between night and day. In cases of blindness with light perception, the person may navigate through a dark room illuminated by a lamp.

Despite having light perception, blindness restricts the person from visually identifying objects, regardless of their size or proximity. With blindness and light perception, visual ability is confined solely to distinguishing between light and dark.

Tunnel Vision

Vision might be relatively normal within a limited radius. Individuals with tunnel vision can only see objects within a cone of fewer than 10 degrees.

What a blind person sees with various diseases

What a blind person sees with various diseases

Macular Degeneration (Early & Late Stage)

Macular degeneration, often associated with the aging process, involves the thinning of the macula—the central part of the retina responsible for perceiving fine details. This crucial region is integral to the eye’s ability to discern intricate visual information, situated within the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

Initially, individuals may observe waviness in lines, such as those of trees, telephone poles, or ceiling tiles. Progression of the condition can manifest as exaggerated distortions in these lines or the emergence of a small, abnormal blind spot.


Cataracts denote a clouding of the eye’s lens, impervious to correction with glasses or contact lenses. This opacity can affect various eye structures, including the cornea, responsible for focusing light, and the vitreous, a clear gel positioned between the lens and the retina.

While cataracts can develop at any age, they stand as a primary cause of vision loss in the United States. Fortunately, surgical intervention is an effective treatment method.

Diabetic Retinopathy 

A complication of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy arises when blood vessels fail to adequately nourish the retina. Early-stage diabetic retinopathy often presents with common blind spots, known as scotomas, as depicted in the accompanying photo.

As a leading cause of blindness among U.S. adults, early diagnosis and timely treatment play pivotal roles in preventing irreversible vision loss. Regular eye examinations remain crucial for maintaining ocular health.


Grouped under the umbrella of eye diseases, glaucoma inflicts damage on the optic nerve, potentially leading to partial or complete blindness. This harm is attributable to an increase in fluid pressure within the eye.

Indicators of glaucoma may include loss of peripheral vision, perception of halos around lights, and shimmering lights. Mobility and night vision difficulties could also manifest. Certain glaucoma types may cause severe eye pain, prompting early intervention, while others progress slowly with minimal or no noticeable symptoms.

To sum it up, when we talk about what blind people see, it’s not as simple as just darkness. Contrary to common belief, not all blindness is characterized by an eternal void; some individuals retain light perception, while others navigate the world with functional blindness or tunnel vision. Understanding these nuances is essential for fostering empathy and dispelling stereotypes. So, while the question “what do you see when you’re blind” may not have a one-size-fits-all answer, our exploration invites a deeper understanding of the intricate ways blind individuals perceive and interact with their surroundings.

What is the visual experience for those with complete blindness?

Individuals with total blindness lack the ability to see anything. In contrast, individuals with low vision may perceive not only light but also colors and shapes to varying degrees. However, tasks such as reading street signs, recognizing faces, and coordinating colors may present challenges. Those with low vision often experience unclear or hazy vision.

How do individuals with visual impairments perceive their surroundings?

People with visual impairments often retain the ability to perceive light and may have partial vision, allowing them to discern colors and shapes. Many can utilize their remaining vision or rely on other senses to carry out various activities. Adaptations like audio description, Braille, and mobility training contribute to enhancing the way blind individuals navigate and understand their environment.

Can blind individuals watch TV?

Blind individuals can experience television through audio description, where a narrator verbally conveys the on-screen action, enabling them to imagine the events. Additionally, magnifying television glasses are available, designed to enhance distant viewing for those with limited vision.