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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Facts and Figures on Adults with Vision Loss

Updated May 2014

Please note that estimates of the number of people experiencing vision loss differ based on the definitions of vision loss used, as well as on the dates the data were collected, populations surveyed, and other features of data sources. AFB urges investigators to pay attention to the detailed background information provided along with each estimate.

Topics
Demographics
Lifestyle
Education Level
Income
Insurance Coverage

Other topics that include older estimates:
Mobility
Technology

For definitions of vision loss and related terminology, see Key Definitions of Statistical Terms


Demographics

Number of American Adults with Vision Loss

According to the report for the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, 20.6 million American Adults age 18 and older reported experiencing vision loss.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to a nationally representative sample of the non institutionalized civilian population 18 years of age and over.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. For further information, see "Blackwell, D.L., Lucas, J.W., & Clarke, T.C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260)."


Gender of American Adults 18 Years of Age and Older with Vision Loss

According to the report for the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, 20.6 million Adult Americans 18 and older reported experiencing vision loss. Of these 20.6 million American adults, 12.4 million women and 8.2 million men report experiencing significant vision loss.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to a nationally representative sample of the non institutionalized civilian population 18 years of age and over.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. For further information, see "Blackwell, D.L., Lucas, J.W., & Clarke, T.C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260)."


Age of American Adults with Vision Loss

According to the report for the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, 15.3 million American adults between the ages of 18 and 64 and 5.3 millions American adults 65 years and older report experiencing significant vision loss.

The exact figure from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey Report was 20.6 million Americans who reported experiencing vision loss.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to a nationally representative sample of the noninstitutionalized civilian population 18 years of age and over.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. For further information, see "Blackwell, D.L., Lucas, J.W., & Clarke, T.C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260)."


Race and Ethnicity of American Adults with Vision Loss

According to the report for the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, approximately 20.1 million Americans who have vision loss indicated one race and 538,000 indicated two or more races. Of those who indicated one race, 16.6 million are white, 2.6 million are black or African American, 2.9 million are Hispanic or Latino, 668,000 are Asian, and 236,000 are American Indian or Alaska Native.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to a nationally representative sample of the noninstitutionalized civilian population 18 years of age and over.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. For further information, see "Blackwell, D.L., Lucas, J.W., & Clarke, T.C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260)."


Lifestyle

Marital Status of American Adults with Vision Loss

Approximately 9.7 million of Americans who have vision loss are married, 2.2 million are widowed, 3.4 million are divorced or separated, 3.8 million have never married, and 1.5 million live with a partner.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to a nationally representative sample of the non institutionalized civilian population 18 years of age and over.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. For further information, see "Blackwell, D.L., Lucas, J.W., & Clarke, T.C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260)."


Lifestyle

Place of Residence of American Adults with Vision Loss

Approximately 3.0 million people with vision loss live in the Northeast, 4.8 million live in the Midwest, 8.1 million live in the South, and 4.8 million live in the West.

Approximately 9.5 million people who have vision loss live in a large MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) with a population size of 1,000,000 or more, approximately 7.2 million people with vision loss living in a small MSA with a population size of less than 1,000,000 and 4.0 million do not live in an MSA.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to a nationally representative sample of the non institutionalized civilian population 18 years of age and over.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. For further information, see "Blackwell, D.L., Lucas, J.W., & Clarke, T.C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260)."


Education Level

Of Americans who have vision loss and are 25 years of age and over, 4.0 million have less than a high school diploma, 5.1 million have a high school diploma or a GED, 5.8 million have some college education, and 4.1 million have a bachelor's degree or higher.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to a nationally representative sample of the noninstitutionalized civilian population 25 years of age and over.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. For further information, see "Blackwell, D.L., Lucas, J.W., & Clarke, T.C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260)."


Income

Approximately 9.1 million people with vision loss in the U.S. have a family income of less than $35,000, 2.9 million have a family income between $35,000 and $49,999, 3.1 million have a family income between $50,000 and $74,999, 1.6 million have a family income between $75,000 and $99,999 and 2.9 million have a family income of $100,000 or more.

Approximately 8.2 million Americans with vision loss are poor or near poor.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to a nationally representative sample of the noninstitutionalized civilian population 18 years of age and over.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. For further information, see "Blackwell, D.L., Lucas, J.W., & Clarke, T.C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260)."


Insurance Coverage

Approximately 3.4 million American adults between the ages of 18 and 64 are uninsured, 2.6 million are on Medicaid, and 7.9 million have private insurance.

Approximately 530,000 thousand American adults 65 and over on both Medicare and Medicaid, 52,000 are uninsured, 1.8 million are on Medicare, and 2.5 million have private insurance.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to a nationally representative sample of the noninstitutionalized civilian population 25 years of age and over.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. For further information, see "Blackwell, D.L., Lucas, J.W., & Clarke, T.C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260)."


Mobility

How many people with vision loss use long canes to get around in the U.S.?

Please note that this older estimate is provided pending the availability of more current information. In 1990, approximately 109,000 people with vision loss in the U.S. used long canes to get around.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to non instutionalized individuals.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 1992, "Supplement on Assistive Technology Devices and Home Accessibility Features." For further information, see "Demographics Update: Use of White ("Long") Canes" (1994). Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Part 2, JVIB News Service, 88 (1), 4-5.


How many people with vision loss use dog guides to get around in the U.S.?

Please note that this older estimate is provided pending the availability of more current information. Just over 7,000 Americans use dog guides. Annually, approximately 1,500 individuals graduate from a dog-guide user program.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who are blind or unable to see at all. This estimate pertains to noninstutionalized individuals.

Data source: Eames, E., & Eames, T. (1994). A Guide to Guide Dog Schools, (2nd ed.). For further information, see "Demographics Update: Alternate Estimate of the Number of Guide Dog Users." (1995). Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Part 2, JVIB News Service, 89 (2), 4-6.


Technology

Please note that this older estimate is provided pending the availability of more current information. At least 1.5 million Americans with vision loss use computers.

The term vision loss includes people with any degree of limitation in seeing. Thus, these individuals with vision loss were further identified as having any limitation in seeing, a limitation in seeing, and a severe limitation in seeing. Applying these more specific measures of vision loss more a more detailed estimate is available. The total number of people ages 15 and older with any "limitation in seeing", who report they have access to the Internet is just over 1.5 million (1,549,000). The number of people ages 15 and older, with a limitation in seeing, who use a computer regularly is a bit under 1 million (979,000). Of those, about 196,000 people with a "severe" limitation in seeing have access to the Internet, and about 102,000 persons with a severe limitation in seeing use a computer on a regular basis.

Definition and scope: The term vision loss refers to individuals who have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who are blind or unable to see at all. The term vision loss includes people with any degree of limitation in seeing.

Data source: The U.S. Bureau of the Census (1999) "Survey of Income and Program Participation" (SIPP). For further information, see "Who's Surfing? Internet Access and Computer Use by Visually Impaired Youth and Adults" by Elaine Gerber and Corinne Kirchner. (2001). Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 95 (3), 176-181.


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