Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs About Blindness and
What is the legal definition of blindness?
Federal and State laws define blindness as occurring
when a person's "central visual acuity does
not exceed 20/200 in the better eye with correcting
lenses or when visual acuity is greater than 20/200
but is accompanied by a limitation in the field of
vision in the better eye to such a degree that the
widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle
no greater than 20 degrees as determined by an ophthalmologist
or a physician skilled in diseases of the eye." Practically
speaking, a person is blind when vision has deteriorated
to the point that, to function capably and efficiently,
the individual uses alternative techniques to accomplish
the majority of life's daily activities, even
though there is some residual vision that may well
be quite useful for certain, limited purposes.
What causes blindness and visual impairment?
There are many conditions that can cause blindness
and visual impairment, including glaucoma, cataracts,
diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, and macular
degeneration of aging. Focusing on the causes of blindness
or how much a blind person might still see, however,
misses the point Montana¹s blind vendors
are thoroughly-trained, highly motivated and capable
business people who work to support themselves and
their families, contribute to their communities and
continue to prove that it is respectable to be blind.
How do blind Montanans fare in the job market?
Of the 13,000 blind and visually impaired Montanans,
almost 75% between 18 to 64 are unemployed. This is
dramatically higher than the population as a whole
and the rate of unemployment for other disability groups.
Obviously, enormous social and economic barriers still
confront even competent and motivated blind people.
These barriers are sometimes made worse by lack of
opportunities for adequate training and the chance
to prove themselves.
How do blind people get around?
Blind and visually impaired people achieve mobility
through the use of aids, including the white cane and
guide dogs, among others. The one mobility skill blind
people can't master is driving a vehicle, so on
the job, vendors use sighted drivers, who may also
assist them with such tasks as loading and unloading
merchandise, transporting it to the vending machine
area, and loading and servicing machines.
Can blind people really learn to operate and maintain
Absolutely! Throughout the country, over 3,000 blind
people work as vending machine operators in blind vendors
programs. They stock their machines, collect and count
money, install, service, maintain and repair their
machines, and do routine bookkeeping and accounting.
And they do these things as well as any sighted person.