That is a question that gets asked a lot, significantly if you’re not affected yourself.

The answer is complicated: it depends on what kind of blindness the person has, how old they were when they became blind, and whether or not there are any other sensory problems associated with their vision loss.

Here, we look at the different types of blindness and how they affect people’s experiences in everyday life. Read on to find out more.

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What do blind people see?

The first thing to know is that blindness is not a one-size-fits-all condition. While blindness refers to the lack of sight, it can be caused by several factors, meaning many blind people have different degrees of vision.

Someone who has previously had vision might still be able to “see” images in their head from memory. In contrast, another who has never had this ability might be unable to visualize anything.

This is why there is no clear answer to this question and why it can’t be answered with a generalized reply. Instead, it would help if you gained a more comprehensive understanding of the different conditions that cause blindness.

Blind from birth

People who are blind from birth have never experienced what it is like to see. From the day they were born, they’ve been unable to see anything and will most likely not have any vision for the rest of their lives. ThoughtCo says that “saying a blind person sees black is incorrect because that person often has no other sensation of sight to compare against.”

The best way to make sense of this type of blindness is to use an analogy. Think about if you had to see through your elbow for the rest of your life. There is no eye there, so what would you see? The answer would be nothing. This is what the eyes are to someone who has been blind since birth; they are redundant.

Total blindness

Someone with total blindness now sees the same amount as someone who was blind from birth, but the difference is they likely had some sight before. This means that the person might still be able to see certain elements, like hallucination-type shapes or colors, and continue to visualize objects, places, and people in their heads. This experience can sometimes be a hallmark of Charles Bonnet syndrome, shortened to CBS. While it is not a mental condition, it’s usually characterized as someone lacking sight.

This means that even with glasses or contacts, a person will have difficulty doing daily tasks such as driving safely or reading signs. This will probably be impossible. This means that they will need support to live independently, and appropriate measures should be implemented, such as having a carer or a guide dog.

Functional blindness is another term that falls under this category. Someone’s eyesight is deemed to be functionally blind when its quality drops below 20/200. This is a personal experience, and it is best to ask the person suffering directly what they can see, as this is not the same for everyone.

Light perception

This is where someone is completely blind to movement, objects, and spatial elements but can still be receptive to brightness. For example, someone with light perception blindness can tell when a light in the room has been turned on or off.

Tunnel vision

Someone with tunnel vision might only be able to see objects, typically within a radius of 10 degrees. Apart from this, their vision might be relatively normal.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a condition in which the retinal cells die. It usually starts when people are teenagers or young adults, and it causes tunnel vision at first before progressing to complete blindness. People who have this condition can see the outlines of things until just before they lose their vision. If someone you know is experiencing tunnel vision, make sure to get them checked out straight away before it escalates.

Legally blind

A legally blind person is not fully blind like the two types listed above, as they can make out people and large objects in their eye line. They will likely be able to count the fingers in front of their face and make out colors too. However, their overall ability to use their vision is incredibly poor.

They may not be able to see the world around them clearly, but they might still be able to drive and participate in everyday activities with some help. Even still, the experience of being legally blind is highly variable and should be taken on a subjective basis for each person.

Do people who are blind from birth see anything?

There are two ways you can lose your sight: congenital or acquired. Congenital means that the condition was present at birth, while acquired is when vision loss happens later in life.

It might be hard for someone who isn’t blind to think about a life without sight. All our memories are encoded in a visual format, which helps us formulate and recall narratives we have experienced. Plus, how would you be able to watch films, read books, or appreciate art when all of this appeals to one major sense that they lack?

When a person has been blind since birth, they do not have any visual memories to draw on. Their brains were still developing and forming new connections when they were born. If someone loses sight in the first few weeks after birth, they will never know what it is like to experience the world through visual stimuli. They instead use different senses, such as touch, taste, and smell, to navigate. Often, their hearing steps up to the task, with cases of echolocation being taught and used successfully for some individuals.

Sometimes, a heightened sensation from touch can help a blind person to read braille. This is a language for the visually impaired and requires the person to run their finger across it to read rather than use their eyes.

People who lose their sight later in life can still have some visual information stored in their brains because there was time for their brains to form those connections before losing their vision. These people can have a more challenging time adjusting to living predominantly through their other senses, as they can still remember when they would use their eyes to process what is happening around them.

Do blind people dream?

You may have heard that blind people dream, but what do they see? In actuality, those who are fully blind do not see anything in their dreams. They experience visual imagery and sounds like everyone else and can even create pictures in their minds as they dream. However, these images are not real—they are just ideas created by the mind while they are asleep. Hence they can be “seen” by anyone who experiences them.

People who have lost their sight later in life can recall images that resemble reality in their dreams, such as faces and animals, but someone who has been blind since birth might only experience sounds and voices during their sleep.

Whatever someone’s condition, we should learn to be compassionate and strive to understand another person’s perspective above all else. If you want to find out more about this topic, alongside many other interesting reads, why not check out our website?