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If you’ve ever seen a blind person wearing sunglasses, you may have wondered why they were wearing them despite not being able to see.

It’s a common misconception that most blind people have no vision. In fact, only 15 percent of people with eye disorders have total blindness. The other 85 percent can see at least a limited amount.

There are a handful of reasons why a blind person may choose to wear sunglasses. Despite the stereotype, it’s usually not to hide their eyes but to protect their eyes from bright lights and glares.

Here, we take a deeper look at some of the reasons a blind person might choose to wear sunglasses and examine how sunglasses may help somebody with limited vision to see better.

The vast majority of legally blind people have some degree of vision. Sunglasses can help some people with limited vision maximize what they can see.

In the United States, legal blindness is defined as a central vision acuity under 20/200 in your better-seeing eye with corrective lenses.

Having 20/200 vision means you need to be 20 feet away from an object to see it as clearly as a person without visual impairment at 200 feet.

Legal blindness can also be defined as a visual field less than 20 degrees in your better-seeing eye without moving your eyes side to side. To get an idea what this would look like, you can poke a hole into a piece of paper with the tip of a pen and look through.

Sunglasses can help people with limited vision see by cutting down on glare. A glare that only takes up a small portion of a seeing person’s visual field may take up nearly all of a blind person’s visual field.

People with sight loss commonly experience photophobia, also known as light sensitivity. Sunglasses can help people with photophobia protect the eyes from bright lights that may cause discomfort or further vision loss.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays found in sunlight can damage the eyes of seeing and blind people. UV rays raise the risk of developing conditions like cataracts or macular degeneration. Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness in the world.

A visually impaired person’s eyes are just as vulnerable to UV rays as the eyes of somebody who can see. For legally blind people with some degree of vision, sunglasses might help prevent further vision loss caused by exposure to UV light.

Some completely blind people can experience pain when looking at bright lights, despite not being able to see. This phenomenon has been seen in people with migraines who have no rod or cone function.

Along with protection from bright light, sunglasses can also provide a barrier to protect a blind person’s eyes from foreign objects.

People with visual impairments are at a higher risk for getting foreign objects in their eyes. Things like open cupboard doors or tree branches could be painful to unexpectedly walk into.

Blind people also feel as much pain as a seeing person if their eyes are scratched or injured.

Air particles like dust or pollen can cause eye irritation. Wearing sunglasses can help act as a protective barrier to reduce the amount of these particles that gets into a blind person’s eyes.

The sight of somebody wearing sunglasses and carrying a white cane is often recognized as a sign of blindness. Some blind people may choose to wear sunglasses to easily communicate blindness in certain situations.

Communicating blindness encourages people to adopt potentially helpful behaviors, like keeping a safe distance in crowded areas.

It’s a stereotype that most blind people wear sunglasses to hide their eyes. Most of the time, glasses play a protective role to avoid eye damage and to maximize vision.

If you had a limited amount of vision, you may also try to do everything you could to protect it.

Although it’s not the main reason blind people wear sunglasses, some people may wear them to intentionally cover their eyes. A blind person may feel uncomfortable showing their eyes to people, or they may find that they communicate better with them on.

Some blind people have trouble making continuous eye contact and may find that it puts others at ease to wear sunglasses.

The majority of legally blind people have some degree of vision. Wearing sunglasses can help blind people protect their eyes from bright lights and foreign objects.

It’s a stereotype that the main reason blind people wear sunglasses is to hide their eyes. While some blind people may choose to wear sunglasses for this reason, sunglasses usually play a protective role.