A Functional Classification System of the Visually Impaired to Replace the Legal Definition of Blindness

by Samuel M. Genensky

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The capacity of the visually impaired to perform normal tasks is the basis of a new classification system proposed to supplant the current legal definition of blindness, now based on arbitrary numerical values used to measure visual acuity and angular field. The problem: the law in effect lumps all Americans into two groups — those who can see and those who can't, thus denying essential services to some visually impaired persons and imposing needless, burdensome disciplines on others. For example, many are taught and strongly urged to read braille although they could be taught to read and write as the normally sighted do. Adoption of the new system would establish the fact that the visually impaired population is not homogeneous, and vastly reduce the number of people automatically classed as "functionally blind." Coupled with relevant, high-quality education and vocational training programs, it would enhance the financial and emotional independence of literally thousands of the visually impaired.

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