What blindness really looks like

Blindness is rarely absolute. It's a spectrum.

A distorted view of the table with four chairs and lunches on top

When most sighted people think “blindness,” they think of a world in total blackness. But, this is far from accurate. A variety of eye diseases, genetic disorders, and birth defects, as well as aging or suffering an injury, can interfere with healthy vision. And these visual impairments don’t all “look” the same.

For example, here is what 4 different types of blindness might look like:

two images of a child smiling, but right image has a black blur in the middle - Macular Degeneration
two images of a dog smiling but right imagehas black clouds covering it - Diabetic Retinopathy
two images of a family helping a child bike but right image covers most of family in black- Glaucoma
two images of a river but right image is blurry and dark - Blindness

People who experience total darkness all the time have “total blindness” whereas those who may be able to see some light, colors, and/or shapes are commonly referred to as having “low vision.” You might have a blind or blurry spot in the middle of your field of vision. Or your peripheral vision may be impaired. Or maybe, your visual impairment may be one, or a unique combination, of a myriad of other possibilities. Therefore, blindness is a spectrum of visual impairments affecting millions of children and adults worldwide.

CVI: The leading cause of blindness in children

Cortical/cerebral visual impairment (CVI) is the leading cause of blindness in children today.

What many kids with CVI see (No two kids are exactly the same):

A distorted view of the table with four chairs and lunches on top

What most people see:

A table with four chairs and lunches on top

Often, people associate blindness with ocular — or eye — impairment. However, CVI is neurological. For kids with CVI, the eye’s connection to and in the brain doesn’t work correctly. There isn’t a cure for CVI, but a child’s ability to use his or her vision may improve with the right assessment and educational programming.

This is why Perkins is hard at work designing new ways to teach kids who have CVI. And, we’re dedicated to supporting their parents, educating teachers, and collaborating with experts to reach more kids with CVI where they are today.

To help us reach these families and to help them reach each other, we created CVI Now, a website and Facebook Group to help families understand CVI, learn how to help their children every day, and find other families who share their experience.

What learning with CVI looks like

A student touching a light up board with touch sensors with a teacher
This is one way we teach kids with the leading cause of blindness, by controlling light and contrast using specialized equipment.
A student looking at different colored cylinders on a bright desk
The right tools and techniques make it possible for our teachers to help kids retrain their brain to understand what their eyes see.
A student looking at a light bulb inside a clear vase filled with water
If caught early, kids with CVI can often improve the use of their vision through controlled environments, use of color and contrast and the dedicated attention of a teacher trained to address this kind of visual impairment.
A series of polariods depicting the Perkins Class of 1972, Marie as a student, Marie as an adult on the phone, and Marie with her guide dog.

Perkins alumna Marie Hennessy chooses to give back to her community


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Headshot of Becca Meyers smiling

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