Eyeglasses as Disability Metaphor

In the United States, if your eyeglasses properly correct your vision, you are not legally blind. This is spelled out in the USA definition of what blindness is. I remember years ago I knew folks who were “vain” and refused to wear eyeglasses because they believed their eyeglasses impaired their good looks. Still, even though they were unable to see very well when they were flashing around their pretty faces, they were not legally blind under the USA definition of blindness by any means. Did you know anyone like that? Bet you did. I knew older folks, too, both men and women, who resisted getting reading glasses, delayed this for a long time, mainly because their jobs or lifestyles did not require much reading. They could still drive and still function fine. They raised kids, socialized, did all sorts of things.

Now when it came to driving, what happened? Those vain folks had to wear glasses when they took the eye test. If they were wise, they wore their glasses while driving. They knew if they did not, there very well could be consequences since there would be a notation on their license, “Requires corrective lenses.” They knew.

I know of incidents where people got caught not wearing them. Generally this occurred when they were stopped for other reasons and the cop saw them with no glasses on nor contact lenses. Yes, you could get fined. You could even have your license suspended.

Wearing glasses is an accommodation for what would be a disability for many people. If we did not have eyeglasses, many of us would be stuck seeing a blurry world. Eyeglasses are known to be extremely safe for the user, and if prescribed correctly, also an effective  and time-tested treatment. Eyeglasses have to be checked periodically, and sometimes, updated. This could be costly. Getting an exam and replacement glasses may, or may not, be covered by “insurance.” Therefore, eyeglasses sometimes become an economic issue as well as an accommodation for a possible disability.

Blindness, as defined in the United States, that I know of, has been defined both by the Commission for the Blind and by the ADA and is covered in policies set by the Commission and more recently, set by the ADA.

What happens if you cannot afford glasses? This is a widespread issue among people on public assistance. I believe it is far more of an issue than the government is aware of. What happens is that people then become disabled by poverty. However, they very well most likely do not fit the ADA nor Commission’s definitions of blindness. But I ask….Can you see?

I’m not the only poor person who cannot see. Years ago, my issue was inability to afford glasses more than the cataracts. Replacing my glasses, at the time, would have improved my life tremendously, but I didn’t have the money to do this. This was in fact a disability under the United Nations, since poverty alone restricted my ability to obtain the necessary accommodation. Poverty is not a disability under the ADA. I have since discovered also that Eyes For the Needy does not always cover eyeglasses over -10 diopters.

To illustrate how poverty influenced my life, at one point, my eyeglasses frames were falling apart but I was forced to continue wearing them. The lenses were so badly scratched that no one could see through them. After that, due to insurance non-coverage, I was forced to wear eyeglasses that were the incorrect strength by a number of diopters. I could not see and everything was blurry. I wore these to the job I was fired from. I could not get them replaced in time.

I had a pair of glasses that were close to the right strength but alas, because they were so cheaply made, the lenses would not stay in and continued to pop out.

All of this was due to economics. I challenge anyone to define it as disability under the ADA. However, by all means, under UN definition, poverty, for me, meant I was unable to acquire the accommodation I needed.

As of now I am still unsure if a cataract operation is going to be covered.  Medicare told me their insane and confusing policy that you get the surgery, and THEN they tell you the good, or bad, news. They change these policies also. I am very scared to get one…or rather….two.

Feedback and comments welcome!