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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Prevalence Rates of Visual Impairment for New York State and NY City

Prepared September 2008

New York State

  • The New York Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired estimates that there are 110,000 legally blind non-institutionalized people in New York State, based on the 2000 census. Of those, 40,910 are between the ages of 22-64 years old. It is also estimated that 1 out of 10 are totally blind, leaving 90 percent with some residual vision.

  • It is estimated that over 21 percent of the elderly in New York State age 65 and above have a self-reported vision impairment (Annual Plan Summary, April 1, 2007-March 31, 2008; September 2006 New York City Department for the Aging).

New York City

  • VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired based in New York City estimates that there are 60,000 blind people and 363,000 people with severe visual impairment in New York City.

  • According to VISIONS, less than two percent of blind and visually impaired New Yorkers currently access vision rehabilitation services.

  • Based on the 2000 census and applied prevalence rates, the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH) reports that in New York City there are 34,280 legally blind people aged 65 and over. There are 164,962 visually impaired people aged 65 and over.

  • Based on the 2000 census, the total elderly in New York City declined slightly between 1990 and 2000, from 1.28 million to 1.25 million. However, the number of persons in the very oldest age group of 85 years and over, increased by 18.7 percent over the decade. In this age group, disability is more prevalent (Annual Plan Summary, April 1, 2007-March 31, 2008; September 2006 New York City Department for the Aging).

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 below.

Terminology in this report

  • Legal blindness is a level of vision loss that has been legally defined to determine eligibility for benefits. The clinical diagnosis used in this document refers to a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction, and/or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.

  • Total blindness refers to an inability to see anything with either eye.

  • Visual impairment is defined clinically as a visual acuity of 20/70 or worse in the better eye with best correction, or a total field loss of 140 degrees. Additional factors influencing visual impairment might be contrast sensitivity, light sensitivity, glare sensitivity, and light/dark adaptation.

Data sources: Data are from various sources including: US Census Bureau, McNeil, Americans with Disabilities, Report 70-73 (2000); National Eye Institute & Prevent Blindness America, Vision Problems in the U.S.: Prevalence of Adult Impairment and Age-Related Eye Disease in America (2002). New York City specific information was provided by VISIONS / Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired

For more information, e-mail Stacy Kelly, Ed.D., Policy Research Associate.

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