Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Our Visually Impaired Presidents

Adapted from an article by Kyla King | The Grand Rapids Press

Presidents' Day usually means a day off for most government workers, and a day without mail for the rest of us.

For a change of pace, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) wants to mark the occasion by reminding us of the “Get Eye Smart” public awareness campaign encouraging Americans to take charge of our eye health.

They accentuate the point by highlighting reported vision problems of three U.S. Presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

lincoln1863-1187198463.JPGAbraham Lincoln

It seems Lincoln could not look a person straight in the eye because he had “strabismus,” according to the AAO.

What's that? The National Institute of Health defines it as “ a disorder in which the two eyes do not line up in the same direction, and therefore do not look at the same object at the same time.

The AAO say photos and portraits of Lincoln's left eye tended to roll upward, especially when the 16th president was tired or excited, and his dominant right eye did most of the work.

They also say Lincoln's left eye was set slightly higher in his head and drooped a bit because he was kicked by a horse when he was 10. They speculate he may have suffered from double-vision at times and nerve damage that resulted in mild paralysis of his eyelid.

0013588_2.JPGTheodore Roosevelt

According to eye doctor historians, the country's 25th President, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, was partially blind in his left eye. Either from a blow to the head during one of his many boxing matches, or an earlier injury from his adventurous ways.

They speculate Roosevelt had an undiagnosed detached retina and say athletes in impact sports should take a lesson and be sure to use protective eye wear and seek immediate attention for injuries to the eye and head.

Lastly, they tell us Woodrow Wilson woke up in 1906 to find he was nearly blind in his right eye. That was seven years before he became the 27th president.

2006_06_0210.JPGWoodrow Wilson

The AAO said Wilson had severe bleeding in his retina, which back then eye doctors had no treatment for other than ordering patients to rest the eye for several months.

They speculate Wilson's reported high blood pressure may have been the cause. Eye historians say his vision eventually improved some a bit, but not enough to improve his golf game.

E-mail Kyla King: and follow her on Twitter at

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