The objective of this research was to assess the barriers to cataract surgical acceptance by blind rural Malawians recognized and referred for surgical correction at district hospitals. Cataract blind recognized and referred for surgery by the ophthalmic assistants in Chikwawa and Nsanje Districts were interviewed 9-12 months after enrolment to determine if they had undergone cataract surgery and to assess factors associated with surgical acceptance. There were significant gender-specific baseline differences between men and women presenting to the ophthalmic assistants. Patients living near the district hospital were also most likely to present to the ophthalmic assistant. Men with lower socioeconomic status were more likely to accept surgery than men with higher socioeconomic status. Men and women who either talked to someone about cataract surgery or knew another aphakic patients were more likely to accept surgery. The best approaches to improving cataract acceptance given existing resources might be to encourage patients undergoing cataract surgery to educate and motivate others to accept surgery and to train existing village level health staff in cataract recognition and referral. Economic barriers and lack of family support are likely to continue to impede improved cataract surgical acceptance, especially among women.