Blind People Facts
Blind People Facts

71 Amazing Blind People Facts

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published August 8, 2020
  • Of the 253 million visually impaired people in the world, 36 million are fully blind.[8]
  • There are 1 billion people in the world with impairments that make it difficult to see things that are near to them.[8]
  • Eighty-nine percent of all people with vision impairments live in countries with low or median income levels.[8]
  • The gender division of people with moderate-to-severe vision impairment is close to that of the general population: 55% are female and 45% male.[8]
  • More than 75% of all cases of severe visual impairment or full blindness are avoidable with proper health and vision care.[8]
  • In 2015, the percentage of the population with vision impairments was found to have dropped to 3.37%, down from 4.58% in 1990.[8]
  • The top causes of vision impairment are cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and uncorrected refractive errors.[8]
  • Over the past twenty years, the number of people in the world whose vision impairment was caused by infectious disease has declined.[8]
  • In recent years, researchers have explored the relationship between sight and touch, theorizing that a person can get equivalent information about an object through touching as they can through seeing.[14]
  • Scientists have found that blindness is often accompanied by increased touch sensitivity, leading them to hypothesize a relationship between the way the human brain processes both visual and tactile information.[14]
  • Ray Charles Blindness
    Rolling Stone magazine voted Ray Charles #10 on their list of the 100 greatest musicians of all time
  • Famous modern musicians who were also blind include Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Jose Feliciano, Art Tatum, and 12-string blues guitarist Blind Willie McTell.[7]
  • One study has shown that blind children ages 3 to 16 tend to outperform their sighted counterparts in tests of both short-term and long-term memory capabilities.[14]
  • Researchers have found that some blind and visually impaired people may use their occipital lobe, the part of the brain that processes sight, when they are interacting with the world through touch.[14]
  • The Muller-Lyer Illusion, an optical exercise that tricks the viewer into being unable to correctly identify the center of a series of arrows, has been shown to have similar results when a touch version of the test is given to a congenitally blind subject.[14]
  • Alice Walker, an American author who won a Pulitzer for The Color Purple, was blind in one eye—the result of a childhood accident in which her brother shot her with his BB gun.[9]
  • Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, became almost completely blind in his teenage years. He regained much of his sight later in life, crediting an unorthodox treatment: “The Bates Method” recommends never using eyeglasses and exposing one’s eyes regularly to sunlight.[22]
  • Helen Keller met the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, at age six. The two remained lifelong friends, and Keller considered Bell a father figure.[19]
  • One of modern history’s favorite heroes, Helen Keller was rendered both blind and deaf by an unknown illness at only 19 months of age.[19]
  • Helen Keller blindness
    During her adulthood, Helen Keller's eyes were replaced with glass replicas for health and cosmetic purposes

  • In the beginning of the 20th century, it was estimated that two-fifths of all cases of blindness in America were caused by opthalmia neonatorum, an infection that is passed on to newborns from mothers with venereal disease.[19]
  • Helen Keller, most commonly known for her advocacy for the blind and deaf, was also an outspoken anti-capitalist for many years, going so far as to join the Socialist Party in 1909.[19]
  • Jorges Luis Borges, an important 20th-century author and poet, often incorporated into his writings references to his experience of progressing into full blindness.[9]
  • Neurologist Oliver Sacks, known for his best-selling books describing real case histories of neurological problems, used his own onset of blindness from a tumor as the catalyst for a new book focused on visually-impaired subjects.[9]
  • Famous Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was born with glaucoma in one eye, leaving him with only 10% sight—which he lost at age 12. A film based on his autobiography, The Music of Silence, was released in 2017.[1]
  • Braille, the reading/writing system used by blind people worldwide, uses arrangements of raised dots to represent individual alphanumeric characters. The system is so simple and elegant that it has been adapted to almost every known language.[24]
  • Nonprofit organization American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) was created in 1921. With Helen Keller as one of the its first spokespersons, the AFB was an instant nationwide fundraising success.[19]
  • Ancient Greek poet Homer is traditionally thought to have been blind. Though very little is known about his life, a character in The Odyssey, a blind minstrel named Demodokos, is generally interpreted as a representation of Homer himself.[15]
  • Louis Braille Facts
    Military cryptography inspired Louis Braille's famous invention
  • Blinded at the age of three, Louis Braille was only 15 when, in 1824, he invented the universal system of reading and writing for blind people that bears his name.[24]
  • Chris Holmes, now a British peer in the House of Lords, won a total of 15 medals (nine gold, five silver, one bronze) in the Paralympic Games from 1988 to 2000.[21]
  • Because French artist Claude Monet’s Impressionistic style of painting included lack of detail and blending of many colors, his blindness later in life was not initially recognized.[18]
  • One medieval king of Bohemia was sometimes known as “King John the Blind of Bohemia” due to a cataract in one eye, which many believed was a punishment from God. King John refused to heed both the rumors and his condition, insisting on fighting in the Hundred Years War for France, where he was killed on the battlefield.[4]
  • Sympathetic opthamalia is an occurrence of blindness in which only one eye has been injured, but the second eye develops a “sympathetic” inflammation leading to blindness in both eyes.[24]
  • Braille is written either with a Braillewriter (similar to a typewriter) or by punching holes in paper using a stylus; it is then read simply by passing one’s fingers over the bumps.[24]
  • Like most superheroes, Marvel’s Daredevil has both superpowers and elite training; unlike other comic book characters, however, Daredevil is also completely blind.[16]
  • Dolphins and bats use echolocation, the use of echoes rather than sight, to navigate their surroundings. Several cases have been documented of blind people with this same ability. One blind man in particular, Daniel Kish, actively pursued this ability, learning how to make clicking noises that would make echoes to help him in tight spaces.[16]
  • Blind people tend to be more adept than most sighted people at using sound to navigate their surroundings. However, research has found that instead of being due to heightened sense of sound, this ability results from increased brain activity allowing the person to “extract” more information from what they are hearing.[16]
  • Despite some popular conceptions, studies have found no difference in the sensitivity to smell, sound, or balance of blind people when compared to their sighted counterparts. Blind people do, however, show a marked difference in their sensitivity to touch.[16]
  • Egyptian Eye makeup
    It was more than just a great look
  • The black or green eye-paint commonly worn by men and women in ancient Egypt was used as part of a sacred religious rite. But the paint was also mixed with ointments that had antibiotic elements, so it could help treat and/or prevent eye diseases that were prevalent at the time.[2]
  • According to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was rendered blind for three days after an encounter with the resurrected Christ. Paul’s sight was said to have been restored only after a local Christian named Ananias was commanded in a vision to find Paul and heal him.[29]
  • The modern phrase “scales fall from (one's) eyes” is an idiom meaning "realize the truth of a thing" and comes from the Biblical account of Ananias healing the Apostle Paul's temporary blindness.[29]
  • In Sophocles’ famous play Oedipus Rex, upon discovering he has unwittingly killed his father and married his mother, King Oedipus blinds himself by stabbing out his eyes.[20]
  • In Greek myth, Tiresias was a human who had been transformed from a man into a woman and then back into a man. Hera and Zeus called upon Tiresias to resolve an argument about whether men or women experience more pleasure during sex. Tiresias answered that women did, and Hera punished him for siding with Zeus by blinding him.[27]
  • In one version of the myth of Tiresias, Athena cursed him with blindness as punishment for having seen her nude. When asked for mercy, instead of restoring his sight, Athena gave Tiresias the ability to see into the future.[27]
  • Two of Hollywood’s most iconic characters both experience temporary blindness in the third sequel of their respective trilogies: Han Solo, in Return of the Jedi, is blind from “hibernation sickness”; Neo from The Matrix is blinded by his archenemy Agent Smith.[6]
  • One of television’s best-known blind characters is Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, played by LeVar Burton in Star Trek: The Next Generation.[6]
  • The classic show Happy Days features one of television’s more absurd blindness storylines when The Fonz is struck in the head with a cafeteria tray and rendered temporarily sightless as a result.[6]
  • When Dana Elcar, the actor who played the boss in tv's MacGyver, developed glaucoma the show’s writers decided to write it into the show, giving the character the same disease so that the actor could continue to play him.[6]
  • Cartoon character Peter Griffin of Family Guy went blind in one episode as a direct result of his setting the world record for eating the most nickels.[6]
  • Kenshi, a player character in the video game “Mortal Combat,” is a blind master swordsman.[6]
  • Seeing eye dogs (guide dogs) are trained to be “intelligently disobedient” when they perceive a dangerous situation their handler may not be aware of.[25]
  • Seeing Eye Dog
    It costs roughly $50,000 to breed, raise, and train a seeing eye dog
  • The most common types of breeds used as guide dogs for the visually impaired are German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, and golden retrievers.[25]
  • Although they are not common, standard poodles are sometimes used as guide dogs for blind people with allergies.[25]
  • A common misconception about seeing eye dogs is that they can read traffic signals, but dogs are colorblind and not intelligent enough to understand the different symbols. Instead, the dog’s blind handler relies upon sound to give the dog the command to cross, and it is the dog’s responsibility to refuse if it sees an obstacle.[25]
  • Dog-friendly people should avoid petting a dog wearing a harness that indicates they are a guide dog. When in their harness, the dog is “working,” and it can be dangerous to their handler if the dog is distracted.[25]
  • Between 1952 and 2005, six actors have been nominated for an Oscar award for playing blind characters, including Audrey Hepburn, Al Pacino, and Jamie Foxx.[26]
  • As the name implies, someone who is only “legally blind” is not necessarily blind but may simply have eyesight so poor that, even with corrective lenses, the government considers them unable to see for purposes of obtaining drivers licenses and disability assistance.[13]
  • As of 2015, one million Americans were legally blind, but due to the aging of the Baby Boomer Generation, that number is predicted to double by the year 2050.[13]
  • Different New Testament writers record stories of Jesus of Nazareth healing the blind. In one account, Jesus spits on the blind man’s eyes before praying twice to give him sight.[11]
  • Jesus Healing Blindness
    Tales of miraculous healing are ubiquitous in Christian theology (El Greco)

  • Approximately 1 of every 5,200 babies in the United States is born with either microphthalmia (underdeveloped eyes) or anophthalmia (either one or both of the eyes is missing). Both conditions result in untreatable blindness.[5]
  • Total blindness is any condition in which the person cannot perceive any visual images or light whatsoever.[17]
  • In the 1930s, North Carolina conducted a census to count its blind residents. The survey found almost two-and-a-half times as many blind citizens as their legislature had estimated. The government then established many more schools and associations to serve these residents.[17]
  • The United States Census of 1880 reported twice as many blind Americans than had been counted in 1870. This increase in such a short period of time was a concern for many, but historians have pointed out that it was most likely due the fact that, in the latter census, employees were paid an extra five cents for every case of blindness they recorded.[17]
  • There are many types of blindness, including the ability to see light and dark but not distinct objects; “tunnel” or “gun-barrel” vision, in which the person can see anything that is directly in front of them but nothing on either side; and the inability to read ordinary-sized print even with corrective lenses.[17]
  • There is evidence that trachoma, a disease that causes blindness, can be caused by the bazaar fly, an insect that seeks to obtain liquid and nutrition from human tears and eye mucus.[23]
  • Doctors stationed at Ellis Island in the early 20th century checked immigrants’ eyes for signs of trachoma, a disease that causes blindness. If signs of the illness were found, the person was turned away, in order to prevent the spread of the disease in the United States.[3]
  • The Gospel of St. John (New Testament) includes the story of a blind man healed by Jesus Christ. When his apostles asked whether the man’s blindness was the result of his own sin or that of his parents, Jesus replied it was neither; the man was made blind so that God could show His power when Jesus healed him.[10]
  • Although there is a “deaf culture,” most blind people report lack of a similar community for the visually impaired. This is likely because there is no common language, such as ESL, which can unite members from various backgrounds.[28]
  • The philosopher Descartes famously argued that using sight to observe the world involved the same process used by a blind man who goes around tapping on objects with his stick until he knows his surroundings.[12]
  • In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, philosopher John Locke answered a question posed by William Molyneux concerning whether a blind man whose sight was suddenly restored would be able to visually identify a cube from a sphere. Locke answered in the negative.[12]
  • The first recorded case of a successful cataract operation, enabling a person who had been blind from birth to gain sight, was said to have taken place in Arabia in 1020 AD.[12]
  • Two types of near-blindness, one caused by cataracts and the other by opacity of the cornea, are operable if the retina has retained functionality.[12]
  • Scientists Richard Gregory and Jean Wallace interviewed one of the first individuals cured of blindness in the 1960s. The patient was very quickly able to identify objects he had been familiar with when he was blind and some colors. After a few days, the patient admitted to being a little bit disappointed by how “drab” the world was, especially after sunset.[12]
  • Blindness & Blind People INFOGRAPHIC
    Blindness Infographic Thumbnail

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