Why Do Blind People Wear Sunglasses?

Blind people wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from various environmental hazards, let people know they are blind, and protect what little vision they may have.

It is not uncommon for some people to wonder why many blind people wear sunglasses. Yet, very few people really know why that is the case. There are several reasons why so many blind people choose to wear sunglasses in many different environments. The decision to do so is always personal although it may be influenced by the opinions of those close to the blind person.

“Blindness took away my sight but gave me clarity of vision. It took blindness to teach me the meaning of love and friendship.” — Lisa Fittipaldi

Some people assume that the main reason is an aesthetic one and, although that can be one of the main reasons, it is not always the case. Mostly, blind people wear sunglasses for a mixture of reasons.

So, here are the key reasons why blind people wear sunglasses:

To Increase Vision

The main reason why blind people use shades may surprise most seeing people. Most visually impaired people are not one hundred percent blind. Although most seeing people may spend little time thinking about it, it is a fact that the overwhelming majority of blind people have, at least, some visual perception.

What this means is that most blind persons are able to identify some visual cues: for example certain shapes or, mostly, shadows.

Blind People also use auditory cues, which help them to “see” the environment albeit partially but the visual cues that they are able to perceive are also hugely important.

Bright light can make it hard for some bright people to perceive those visual cues they are able to, which is why, for example, it is recommended that seeing people stand in a place where there is minimum glare when talking to a blind person.

Also, some blind people have what is popularly known as tunnel vision, which allows them to see albeit narrowly.

So, wearing sunglasses helps blind people to enhance their vision by both reducing glares noticeably and it also allows them to focus their vision. 

To Protect Their Eyes From Physical Dangers and The Sun 

Apart from the more obvious dangers that blind people may have to face (for example being run by a car), there are other smaller dangers that can actually be prevented by the use of sunglasses.

We are talking about things like being hit by things blown off by the wind (a piece of paper, a tile, tree leaves, etc.) or being hit by a door, and other similar problems. Now, these are dangers that most people actually face in their daily lives, but they are a lot more challenging for blind people.

“Blindness is an unfortunate handicap, but true vision does not require the eyes.” — Helen Keller

So, how can the fact of wearing sunglasses prevent blind people from being affected by this danger? Well, it is true that wearing sunglasses will not prevent them from being affected by all those issues but it may keep them relatively fate.

How? By simply acting as a shield, sunglasses may help in preventing blind people from being hit in the eye inadvertently.

Another element that blind people need to protect their eyes from is the sun. As we know, UV rays are harmful. But, while seeing people can reduce the impact by covering their eyes partially with their hands, facing away from direct sunlight or, indeed, putting a pair of sunglasses on, among other strategies, it may be a lot harder for a blind person to identify when they may be exposed to UV rays.

This important because continued exposure to UV rays can cause many health problems, including the following:

For many blind people, wearing regular sunglasses like everyone else might just do the trick. But, for others, this will not be enough and they will need to get custom-made sunglasses. This is normally the case for blind people who are only sensitive to certain colors that they need to be shielded from.

So whether to protect their eyes from the sun or stuff hitting them, it is always a good idea for blind people to wear shades.

To Look Better

Although the previous two key reasons are hugely important, aesthetic reasons also play a part in the fact that blind people wear shades.

It is not unusual for blind people to have scars or other facial disfigurations in the general eye area. Because seeing people may find those features off-putting, many blind people decide to wear sunglasses around others (particularly seeing people) even when they are in a place where they are not susceptible or even likely to face any danger (UV rays, glare, etc.).

There is another consideration many blind people make when deciding to wear sunglasses. Seeing people are culturally conditioned to (and have no difficulty too) make and, depending on the situation, sustain eye contact with the people they talk with. Blind, people, however, generally find it very difficult to make, and even more so, to maintain eye contact.

“Don’t underestimate the cosmetic power of sunglasses. It’s worth spending a bit of money on a quality pair. I usually go for Dior or Louis Vuitton.” – Dita Von Teese.

Even if seeing people are aware of that fact, cultural and social conditioning causes awkwardness for them when talking to a blind person. Seeing people are conditioned to construe a lack of eye contact as a lack of attention or interest.

So, some blind people choose to wear sunglasses to avoid awkward situations when talking with a seeing person. 

To Let Seeing People Know 

The final key reason why blind people wear sunglasses even indoors is in order to make it visible (and obvious) to the seeing people around that they are blind. When alone in a public place, particularly a crowded place, it is important for blind people’s safety to make it known to other people that they are blind.

Most people would recognize that someone is blind if they see someone using a white cane and dark sunglasses. They will adapt their behavior and even assist if needed blind people in moving around or, at least, keeping them safe. This applies to public places such as the street, a shopping mall, an airport, a university campus, a store, etc. and also public transportation (trains, buses, etc.).