Gov. Paterson makes us think about blindness

David Paterson became governor of New York on March 17, 2008.
David Paterson became governor of New York on March 17, 2008.
Melissa Voetsch
Melissa Voetsch

About 1.3 million people in this country are legally blind. One of them -- David Paterson -- became New York's governor on Monday.

So what does it mean to be legally blind? What it does not always mean is completely blind, reports News 11's Melissa Voetsch.

While normal vision is 20/20, legally blind is about 20/200.

"What a normal person sees from 200 ft. away, they (the legally blind) can only see 20 ft. away," says Dr. David Aizuss, with Encino Regional Medical Center.

Some patients who are legally blind have a small field of vision -- less than 20 degrees. So, rather than see the whole panorama, it's as if they have blinders on their eyes.

"Some people have peripheral vision and have no central vision and some people have vision that's blurry all over," explains Tara Cortes, Ph.D., Lighthouse International.

Paterson's blindness was caused by optic nerve damage. While he can read a little up close, most information is told to him by aides -- and he memorizes speeches.

"Yes, he has a visual impairment, but many people did not realize it on the campaign trail," says former Paterson spokesman Jeff Simmons.

Now everyone will be closely watching this groundbreaking governor for the doors he has opened and the paths yet to be established for people facing the same challenge.

Posted by KO