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Frequently Asked Questions about Vision Loss

Q: I think that my mother-in-law’s macular degeneration is getting worse. What can I do?

A: Contact us: (612) 871-2222, or We may recommend that your mother-in-law receive an in-home assessment, in which a trained specialist will visit her in her home. You are welcome to be present for this one-hour appointment. We will assess her current vision, learn about challenges that her vision may be causing her in her everyday life, and make personalized recommendations for training, community resources, support, lighting, magnification, and more.

There is no specific diagnosis required, and you do not need insurance or a health care plan to receive our services.

Q: What are the fees for your services?

A: Some services are available at no cost, for example, an initial in-home assessment, a support group, or services from a volunteer reader or shopper. Some other services are available on a sliding fee scale, to ensure that financial constraints are not a barrier to receiving important services.

Adults interested in the Adjustment to Blindness Training Program at Vision Loss Resources can ask Minnesota State Services for the Blind or Division of Rehabilitation Services, or their home state’s vocational rehabilitation office, to learn whether the training will be covered.

Q: What is the leading cause of blindness?

A: The leading cause of vision loss or blindness in people under age 60 is diabetic retinopathy. In people over age 60, it is macular degeneration.

Q: What does it mean to be considered legally blind?

A: Legal blindness is visual acuity of less than 20/200 in the best eye with best correction. In other words, while wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses, vision is less than 20/200.

20/200 means that what a “normal” eye can see from 200 feet, the legally blind person must be 20 feet away from the same object to see it.

Legal blindness also can be a visual field of less than 20 degrees. This is called tunnel vision. A normal visual field has about 180 degrees in the visual field.

Q: Are all legally blind people totally blind?

A: No, less than 10% of legally blind people are totally blind.

Q: I see people who don’t look blind using white canes. What’s the deal?

A: Most people who are legally blind have some usable vision, even if they use a white cane for safer travel. Many people with serious vision problems use their remaining vision so well that you might not think that they have visual impairments. They may have learned skills in vision rehabilitation training, such as Vision Loss Resources’ Adjustment to Blindness Training Program.

Q: How is Vision Loss Resources different from State Services for the Blind?

A: Vision Loss Resources is a private, not-for-profit organization. State Services for the Blind is an agency of the State of Minnesota. The two organizations work together in many instances to provide services to people with vision loss.

Q: Why can’t I pet a guide dog?

A: Guide dogs are working hard to guide their owners. Any distraction can result in the dog losing its concentration, potentially putting the person in an unsafe situation. Even when a guide dog is at rest, the dog should never be touched without the owner’s permission.

Vision Loss Resources does not have a guide dog program; we do not train dogs or provide placement services. If you already have a guide dog, we can work with you and your dog in our safe travel skills training.

Q: Where can I get a magnifier that will magnify an entire page and make the words big?

A: Contact us to learn more and to try different options:, (612) 871-2222. Whole-page magnifiers tend to be less than 2X magnification, and often present a blurry image. Unfortunately, the stronger a magnifier is, the smaller it is. The exception to this is a closed circuit TV reading system (CCTV), which uses a powerful camera lens. The magnified material is shown on a monitor that is similar to a television screen.

Have a question? We’re here to help. Call (612) 871-2222 or email