Why I Wear Sunglasses – Wellbeing Magazine


Seema Flower

For a person who has a visual impairment, the act of wearing sunglasses may seem counterintuitive to many people.

In this piece, activist, founder of BlindAmbition, Seema Flower shares her experience of being blind. She is one of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK in 2020 according to the Shaw Trust Power 100 list.

Seema is a driven and passionate advocate of equality and has been training organisations in Disability Awareness issues for over 25 years. She is a qualified and experienced career advisor and Seema has run her own business in central London for 13 years and understands the importance of balancing reasonable adjustments with business needs.

BlindAmbition provides:

  • Disability training for customers and colleagues.
  • Employment workshops for disabled people.
  • Mystery Shopper exercises.
  • Diversity training including unconscious bias.

Seema only has 2% vision.

As a blind person there are several reasons why I choose to wear sunglasses.

Sensitivity to Light

One of the most common reasons for a visually impaired person to wear sunglasses is to reduce the sensitivity to light. Many people are sensitive to bright sunlight. It can trigger a natural reflex to squint, reducing the light that reaches the eyes.

However, for a person with low vision, squinting can make it harder to see. Sunglasses reduce the need to squint, maximizing the vision I have and they can help to reduce the amount of light entering the eye, making it more comfortable for a person with visual impairment to navigate their surroundings.

Light sensitivity also has links with many eye disorders. Some people with low vision may experience extreme discomfort from bright light, also known as photophobia, and this can reduce their ability to see.

Cosmetic Reasons

Another reason a visually impaired person may choose to wear sunglasses is for cosmetic reasons. Just like sighted individuals, we may want to wear sunglasses as a fashion statement or to accessorise an outfit. They also provide a confidence boost if I am feeling uncomfortable in new or unusual locations.

Protection from Harmful UV Rays

Even if a visually impaired person is not bothered by bright light, sunglasses can still be useful in protecting their eyes from harmful UV rays.   UV rays can cause damage to the eyes and increase the risk of developing cataracts or other eye conditions. Sunglasses with UV protection can help to mitigate these risks and keep the blind individual’s eyes healthy.

Constant bright light exposure can damage the cornea, which is the transparent outer layer of the eye, as well as the lens of the eye and the retina, which sends images to the brain. Even on cloudy days, UV light from the sun can pass through the clouds.

Over time, UV light can lead to eye problems such as:

·       cornea inflammation or burning

·       clouding of the eye lens (cataracts)

·       protein and fat deposits in the white of the eye (pinguecula)

·       tissue growth on the surface of the eye (pterygium)

·       age-related macular degeneration

·       cancers of the eyelid, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma

·       melanoma of the eye

Improved Vision

Many visually impaired people have some degree of vision. By reducing glare, sunglasses can help people with low vision maximize what they can see.

Glare is a common issue for people with low vision. Overly intense light, such as sunlight on a bright, sunny day, can produce glare when reflecting off surfaces and objects.

People with cataracts often experience increased light scattering within the eye, which reduces the contrast of visual images.

Individuals with glaucoma can also experience issues with glare and research indicates a link between the severity of glaucoma and worse sharpness of vision under glare conditions. Additionally, people with macular degeneration may experience sensitivity to glare.

Social Benefits

Wearing sunglasses can also provide social benefits for a blind person. For example, it can signal to others that the individual is visually impaired and may require assistance. This can make it easier for the visually impaired person to navigate public spaces and receive help from others when needed. Additionally, it can reduce the stigma associated with blindness and make me feel more comfortable in social situations.

Mobility and Navigation

Sunglasses can be useful for mobility and navigation purposes. Even if a visually impaired individual cannot see, wearing sunglasses can provide a certain level of feedback about the environment. 

For example, they can help the individual differentiate between light and dark areas, which can be useful when navigating unfamiliar environments.

Additionally, sunglasses can provide some protection against objects that may encounter the face or eyes, such as tree branches or other obstacles.

There are many reasons why a visually impaired person may choose to wear sunglasses.Whether it is to reduce sensitivity to light, protect their eyes from harmful UV rays, or provide a social signal to others, sunglasses can provide many benefits for individuals with blindness.

It is important to remember that everyone’s experience with blindness is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

However, for many visually impaired individuals, wearing sunglasses can be a helpful tool in navigating the world.

Written by Semma Flower

Find out more on Seema and her work at BlindAmbition here.


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