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What Do Blind People See?

A lot of sighted people do not understand what people who are blind see. Thus, they usually have a lot of questions on the topic. Do blind people see nothing or darkness? Do blind people dream? What do blind people see when they dream? But there is no one answer since blindness is a spectrum. In this blog post, we will cover what people with visual impairment and blindness actually see.
Photo of Man Dismantling Cane

What do people with low vision see?

“Low vision” can’t be fully corrected with any treatment, surgeries, or ordinary lenses.

For people with low vision, it can be hard to recognize faces, identify colors, do everyday tasks, such as reading bus signs and cooking. Having a low vision does not equal being blind. For instance, you can have a blind or blank spot in the center of your vision, but still, see using your side vision.

An example of low vision, with the green field in the background and a black spot in the middle, preventing good vision

Example of low vision, with a pier in the background and black spots scattered around, preventing clear vision

What do people who are legally blind see?

Total blindness, which defines the full loss of all visual light perception, is not the same as legal blindness. The medical name for the sharpness of your sight is visual acuity. If a person's eye has a visual acuity of 20/200 or a field of vision of fewer than 20 degrees while using glasses or contacts, they are legally blind. The majority of legally blind people can see light, but things in their vision are exceedingly fuzzy. Large objects and people may be visible to people who are legally blind, but everything is out of focus. At some distance, a legally blind may see colors or see in focus. Also, color perception may be lost or all vision may be blurred in some circumstances.

A blurry image of a street at night to demonstrate what people who are legally blind usually see

What do people with total blindness see?

People who have lost their vision have a wide range of reactions. Some people have described experiencing pure darkness as if they were in a cave. Some see flashes or have strong visual illusions, for example, familiar forms, shapes, and colors, or lights. Most of them start mentally filling in what they believe they should be seeing. Since they have seen and know colors or shapes, they see with their minds since they remember how it looks like.

What do people with congenital blindness see?

Congenital blindness means that a person was born blind. Those people never saw anything and as a result, they are unable to see black since they are unaware of what black is. Commonly they see an abyss because they have never seen anything before and they do not know what anything looks like. As a sighted person, it's one of the most difficult things to grasp. Try, for example, to see through your ear, toe, back of your skull, elbow, or knee, it gives you some notion of what it's like.

What do people with tunnel vision see?

Tunnel vision, or peripheral vision loss (PVL), describes the loss of peripheral vision, or vision that exists outside of a person's direct line of view.

This means that people can see what is directly in front of them, but that a person's side vision may have gaps. To see these things well, they must be right in front of a person. On the sides, they can't see almost anything.

A comparison picture, showing an island in the see clearly on the left and the same picture but looking like through the tunnel on the left


Understanding what people with blindness and visual impairment see is extremely important for sighted people while supporting them if needed. Also, when you want to help someone who has low vision or is blind, ask how you can do that and make sure to respect their choices.

Friday, 5 November 2021