Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or psychological factors. There are varying degrees of blindness, ranging from minor visual impairment to total loss of eyesight.
Causes of blindness
- Genetic defects – Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge was born blind due to a birth defect
- Physiology - Some species, like the Aenar, are always born blind
- Injury – General Martok's eyesight was impaired when he lost an eye in a battle with Ikat'ika
- Magnetic fields – Prolonged exposure of humanoids to the intense magnetic fields on Galorndon Core resulted in synaptic breakdown, which rendered La Forge blind even though his VISOR worked perfectly. (TNG: "The Enemy")
- Other intense energy – Lt. Commander Tuvok was blinded by a detonating chroniton torpedo in an alternate timeline; (VOY: "Year of Hell") Spock was rendered temporarily blind after intense light was used to destroy a neural parasite infection, his sight saved only due to his second set of eyelids; (TOS: "Operation -- Annihilate!") Dukat was temporarily blinded by a burst of energy released from the Book of the Kosst Amojan by the Pah-wraiths. (DS9: "When It Rains...")
Attitudes towards blindness
On Earth, the practice of institutionalizing the blind in asylums had a history extending back into the 9th century, and it was not until the 18th century that authorities created schools where blind children, particularly those more privileged, could obtain an education in specialized settings. Despite the negative connotations associated with blindness, many blind Humans throughout history lead rich lives despite their handicap, including the famous poets Homer and John Milton, artist Claude Monet, and musician Stevie Wonder. (TNG: "A Matter of Time")
Romulans possibly kill children who are born with blindness or other such defects. When La Forge told Centurion Bochra that he had been born blind, he asked incredulously "And your parents let you live?", stating that the Human race was weak because "You waste time and resources on defective children." (TNG: "The Enemy")
On some planets, genetic engineering has been utilized to ensure that blindness is a condition of the past. On Moab IV, someone with such a disability would have been terminated as a fertilized egg. (TNG: "The Masterpiece Society")
Adaptive technologies for the blind
- A sensor web was a garment of finely woven sonar units, typically utilized by the blind during the 23rd century. The web could be worn naturally over everyday clothing, and emitted low-level sonar scans undetectable to the Human senses. The web then translated the return signals into media perceptible by the trained wearer. Dr. Miranda Jones wore such a web which she used, along with her telepathic prowess, to hide her blindness from others. (TOS: "Is There in Truth No Beauty?")
- The VISOR was an external medical device used in the Federation to aid patients who had suffered loss of eyesight. The VISOR detected electromagnetic signals across the entire EM spectrum, and transmitted those signals to the brain through neural implants in the temples of the individual via delta-compressed wavelengths. Geordi La Forge, born blind, was given a VISOR after his fifth birthday. (TNG: "Hero Worship")
- Ocular implants were internal, surgically-implanted medical devices which replaced or enhanced the eyesight of an individual. Geordi La Forge received ocular implants in 2373, which eliminated his need for an external VISOR. The Borg also utilized ocular implants as enhancements for their drones. (Star Trek: First Contact; VOY: "The Gift", "Unimatrix Zero")
- The tactile interface was a feature of 24th century LCARS panels, which altered the normally flat panels (intended to be read) so that beings with visual impairments could use the consoles. (VOY: "Year of Hell, Part II")
- Aenar, intelligent beings native to the planet Andoria, were completely blind, though they had highly-evolved telepathic abilities.
- The Tiberian bat was a blind, winged mammal.