The American Foundation for the Blind fielded a national survey of 1,000 adults ages 18 and older on their attitudes and opinions of severe vision loss and blindness. The poll was developed by Widmeyer Research & Polling and Public Opinion Strategies. It was conducted between January 30 and February 1, 2007. The margin of error for the study is +/- 3.1 at the 95th percentile confidence interval.

Major Findings

Attitudes About Blindness/Severe Vision Loss

bar graph illustrating data on quality of life presented in bullet point one under header Attitudes About Blindness/Severe Vision Loss

  • Americans believe strongly that losing one’s sight would have a significant negative impact on their quality of life. Respondents said blindness and severe vision loss would have as much of a negative impact on quality of life as paralysis. In terms of which health condition would have the most negative impact, losing one’s sight (21%) and paralysis (21%), ranked higher than HIV/AIDS (16%), cancer (14%), stroke (11%), heart attacks/disease (6%), diabetes (4%), and deafness (3%).
  • Three-quarters of Americans say that if they were to become blind or have severe vision loss, their biggest concern would be losing the ability to live independently.
  • Not being able to read (68%), properly identify medication (65%), and drive (64%) are also top concerns.
  • Interestingly, an inability to watch television or go to the movies is a worry for less than half of Americans (36%).

bar graph illustrating data on Americans' top concerns of having vision loss presented in bullet points two and three under header Attitudes About Blindness/Severe Vision Loss

Taking Care of Our Eyes

  • Among Americans who reported doing activities like taking the pet to the veterinarian, having the car serviced, and having their eyes examined, almost all (96%) say they have their car serviced at least once a year and the overwhelming majority (88%) take their pet to the veterinarian at least once a year. Only 57% of those who go to the eye doctor do it at least once a year.
  • Seniors are slightly more diligent about their eye care—64% get an annual eye exam.

Impact of Severe Vision Loss on Society, Individuals

  • More than three-quarters of adults (85%) say they are very concerned about drivers with poor eyesight who put others at risk.
  • A majority of Americans express some concern that a close family member might become blind or have severe vision loss (64%), or that they themselves may experience blindness or severe vision loss (52%).
  • Almost half expressed concern about potentially having to care for someone who is blind or has severe vision loss (46%).

Awareness of Age-Related Vision Loss

  • Fewer than 3% of Americans say blindness/severe vision loss is the most important health concern for seniors.
  • When asked to name the health conditions most important to seniors, Americans perceived heart attacks/heart disease (34%), cancer (15%), stroke (15%) and diabetes (12%) as the most important.

Trusted Sources for Information on Severe Vision Loss/Blindness

  • A majority of Americans (56%) would turn first to physicians for information on blindness/severe vision loss. One in 5 adults (29%) would access information online, and 20% would seek help from blindness organizations.

Public Policy Issue

  • More than three-quarters of Americans (76%) say they support Medicare coverage of optical magnification devices and other low vision technology for people who have severe vision loss, devices that currently are not covered by Medicare.