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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs About Blindness and Visual Impairment

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 vending machines?

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.

Montana Business Enterprise Program
For the Blind and Visually Impaired

104 Riverview 5E
Great Falls, MT 59404
Voice: 406.546.8546 Fax: 406.453.6678

 

Copyright © Montana Business Enterprise Program, 2000-2012