May 14, 2010, Newsletter Issue #53: Coping with Blindness: SSI, Money Issues

Tip of the Week

A blind or severely visually impaired individual can receive social security or SSI disability if he or she is considered legally blind. Even though disability payments are not enough to live on in most areas of the country, there is some help for the blind from the government. While the formal definition of being legally blind is 20/200 vision or worse, even with corrective lenses, the social security administration considers a person legally blind if vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in the better eye. It also considers a person legally blind if the visual field is 20 degrees or less in the better eye.

On money matters, the New York Times ( reports that in May of 2008, the federal appeals court panel in Washington upheld a lower court ruling that says the government discriminates against the blind and partly blind because paper money is all the same size with the same texture. If the ruling stands, the Treasury Department will have to redesign bills. If the bills are redesigned, vending machines will have to be refitted for the new currency.

This is a big issue for the blind and visually impaired, as people cannot rely on sighted people to be honest about the face value of each bill. Many times, a sighted person will tell the blind or visually impaired that the bill is a $1 bill, when in fact it is a $5 or a $20 dollar bill.

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Jerry Mayo