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Conditions that qualify for disability

Is Blindness a Disability? How to Qualify for Disability Benefits

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published July 2, 2024
3 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard-trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience and has helped over 50,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

If your blindness prevents you from working in any capacity, you might qualify for disability benefits. In 2022, 9.5% of workers who received Social Security benefits qualified due to diseases of the nervous system and sense organs, which is how the Social Security Administration (SSA) classifies blindness.

The SSA recognizes blindness as a disability, but you'll have to prove you meet the SSA’s criteria to qualify for benefits. Below, we’ll walk through those requirements and offer guidance to help you determine the next steps.

What is blindness?

Blindness is the inability to see that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts. In most states, you must have vision worse than 20/200, even when wearing contacts or glasses, to be legally blind. It's also possible to be legally blind if your field of vision or peripheral vision is less than 20 degrees.

Is blindness a disability?

Yes, the SSA considers blindness a disability. If your blindness makes it impossible for you to work, you may qualify for Social Security benefits. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also considers blindness a disability if substantially limiting. Passed in 1990, the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. 

How the SSA defines blindness

The SSA lists blindness in the SSA Blue Book, the agency's resource on qualifying conditions. Blindness is under Section 2.0, with disorders of special senses and speech, and refers to a lack of vision, either partially or completely.

With complete blindness, the eye cannot see anything, including light. If vision loss is partial and in progress, however, symptoms can include:

  • Eye pain

  • Blurry vision

  • Floaters and flashers in the eyes

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Sudden appearance of black spots

We've helped more than 300 visually impaired applicants.

Can you get disability for blindness?

Yes, you can receive Social Security disability benefits for blindness if your condition prevents you from working.

Securing disability benefits can be simpler if you apply with multiple qualifying conditions. For instance, blindness can result from or cause the following conditions:

  • Diabetes

  • Glaucoma

  • Macular degeneration

  • Stroke

To learn more about these and other qualifying conditions, see our main guide on conditions that qualify for disability.

Criteria for getting disability with blindness

To qualify for disability benefits, you must meet one of the SSA's two definitions of statutory (or legal) blindness:

  1. You have a central visual acuity—or the ability to see straight ahead clearly—of 20/200 or less in your better eye when using a corrective lens.


  1. Your better eye's visual field is limited to an angle of no greater than 20 degrees, even if you don't meet the central vision acuity test.

You'll also need to provide evidence, through medical records and testing, that you meet either of the SSA's above criteria for statutory blindness. Specifically, it may need:

  • Evidence showing only your visual acuity in your better eye or your visual field in your better eye meets the criteria.

  • A report of an eye exam that includes measurements of your best-corrected visual acuity or the extent of your visual fields, depending on which is applicable.

  • Documentation of the cause of the loss if you have visual acuity or visual field loss.

Note that the SSA has preferred methods and specifications for measuring best-corrected visual acuity and visual fields. It will not accept the results of visual field screening tests, such as confrontation tests, tangent screen tests, or automated static screening tests.

3 questions to ask yourself before applying

It can be helpful to gauge your chances of success before going through the hassle of the application process. If you can answer “yes” to all or most of the following three questions, there's a good chance your blindness will qualify: 

  1. Are you considered legally blind, and does your blindness make it impossible for you to work?

  2. Do you have a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye, or does your better eye have a visual field of limited 20 degrees or less?

  3. Do you have evidence showing your visual acuity or visual field limitations, a report from an eye exam with measurements, and documentation of the cause of your visual acuity or visual field loss?

My blindness meets the criteria. Now what?

If your blindness meets SSA criteria, the next step is to apply for disability benefits.

If you’re less confident, consider the following questions to assess next steps:

  • Apply now if:

    • You meet one of the SSA's definitions for statutory blindness.

    • You have undergone testing and secured necessary evidence of your visual acuity or visual field loss.

    • You have another qualifying health condition.

  • Consider waiting and applying later if:

    • You can continue working for now, even if you think your blindness may prevent you from continuing in the future.

    • Your vision is not yet severe enough to meet SSA criteria.

  • Probably don’t apply if:

    • You're earning more than $1,550 each month (the 2024 income limit for SSDI and SSI).

    • You're able to continue working in some capacity despite being blind.

What type of benefits should I apply for?

There are two disability benefits programs. Here's a look at how these programs differ from one another:

Both programs include health insurance (Medicare for SSDI and Medicaid for SSI).

For a more in-depth breakdown of both programs, check out our piece on the differences between SSDI and SSI. If you're applying on someone else's behalf, we also have some guidance on helping a loved one apply for disability benefits.

What if my blindness doesn’t meet the criteria?

If your blindness does not meet the SSA’s criteria, you can still apply. You’ll need medical records to prove your condition prevents you from working. 

How much is a disability check for blindness?

The average disability check for blindness is $1,464.83 per month. You might receive less or more than that amount. As of 2024, the maximum payment is $3,822 per month for SSDI and $943 for SSI. 

These maximums apply regardless of whether blindness or another condition qualifies you for disability. (You will not receive additional funds if you are eligible for benefits with more than one condition.) 

Here's a look at how much people make on SSDI and SSI to help you better understand your earning potential with each program.

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

monthly check


Get help with your disability application

Take our two-minute quiz to see if you qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Give Atticus a call and talk to a team member about your benefits options. If you’d like, we can introduce you to an experienced lawyer who can help you navigate the disability application process.

Related resources:

Qualifying for Disability: Everything You Should Know

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By Jackie Jakab

Is it Hard to Get Disability for Mental Illness? (Yes, But This Can Help)

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By Sydney Hershenhorn

Frequently asked questions about qualifying for disability

What conditions qualify for disability benefits?

Any medical condition that leaves you unable to work can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The SSA has a list of common qualifying conditions in the Blue Book. You can also check our full guide to all the conditions that can qualify for disability.

Does my condition affect my disability benefit?

No, the medical condition you have doesn’t affect how much you get from SSDI or SSI. Where you live also doesn’t impact your check size.

How much do SSDI and SSI pay?

SSDI pays up to $3,822 per month, though the average check is about $1,500 in 2024. SSI can pay up to $943 per month in 2024. Read more about how much you can make on SSDI and SSI.

When should I apply for disability benefits?

We recommend applying for benefits as soon as you know you’ll be unable to work. The application process takes a while — a year or longer for the average person. The sooner you submit your application, the sooner you can get your benefits.

Where do I apply for disability benefits?

Apply for Social Security disability benefits online through the SSA website or in-person at your local SSA office. Get step-by-step help in our breakdown of the disability application process.

Do I need a lawyer to apply for disability?

A lawyer isn’t required and you can win benefits without a lawyer. However, the process is complicated and technical — especially when you get to a court hearing. Working with a good lawyer triples your chances of winning an appeal.

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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