Registering your sight loss

How to register as blind or partially sighted, and what the advantages of registering are.

Many blind and partially sighted people choose to register their sight loss with their local council. On this page we tell you what’s involved in doing this and what the key advantages are of registering.

What is registration?

“Registration” simply means being on your local social service’s register of people who are either:

  • severely sight impaired (blind)
  • or sight impaired (partially sighted).

The register is confidential, so your details won’t be shared.

Registration is entirely voluntary; it’s up to you whether or not this happens. Even if you choose not to register, it won’t stop you getting the help you need from social services. To be registered, your ophthalmologist first needs to certify your sight loss.

To learn more about certification and registration, watch our video in which Nick, who has retinitis pigmentosa (RP), talks about the process and the benefits with his ophthalmologist, Mr Richard Wormald.

The steps involved in getting registered

Step one: getting a referral to an eye specialist

If you are having problems with your sight, visit a high street optician (an optometrist) or your GP for an initial check-up. If necessary, they will then refer you to an eye clinic for an appointment.

At your appointment in the eye clinic, an eye specialist (called an ophthalmologist) will examine the health of your eyes and your eyesight.

Find out more about eye examinations.

Step two: the ophthalmologist determines if you can be certified

Your eye specialist will measure how good you are at seeing detail at a distance (your visual acuity) and how much you can see from the side of your eye when you’re looking straight ahead (your field of vision).

Your ophthalmologist will use a combination of your visual acuity and your field of vision to judge whether you’re eligible to be certified, and at which level. Find out about the criteria for certification.

You must be certified before you can go on to be registered. If your ophthalmologist judges that you can be certified, they will complete an official certificate with the results of your eye examination, as well as information about your circumstances and your preferred format for correspondence.

In England and Wales this certificate is called the Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI). In Scotland it’s called BP1, in Northern Ireland it’s called A655.

If the eye specialist decides you are eligible to be certified, they will indicate on your certificate if you qualify as:

  •  severely sight impaired (blind)
  •  or sight impaired (partially sighted).

The eye specialist sends copies of the certificate to you, your GP and your local social services department. At this point, you are still not registered.

Step three: registration with your local social services

After receiving a copy of your certificate, your local social services team should contact you to ask if you wish to be included on its register of blind and partially sighted people. If you say “yes” then you become registered.

If you choose not to be registered, you can still get support from social services to help you remain independent. Find out more about getting help from social services without registering.

What happens after you’re registered

Social services will contact you to discuss carrying out a needs assessment, also known as a Community Care Assessment. The aim of this assessment is for social services to find out what help and advice you need to remain independent. For example, this could include help with everyday tasks such as cleaning and cooking, keeping in touch with friends and family, or with transport.

The advantages of registering

There are some very significant advantages to getting registered. Firstly, it can make life more affordable by enabling you to claim a wide range of concessions. These include a half-price TV Licence, help with NHS costs, help with your Council Tax bill and tax allowances, leisure discounts and free public transport. Which concessions you are entitled to depends on whether you are registered as severely sight impaired or sight impaired.

Although being registered does not automatically entitle you to any particular welfare benefits, it does often make it easier for you to claim some of them. Your registration confirms your sight loss and helps as evidence in your claim.

Your local council will often give you a registration card that proves your registration status. Having this can help to prove your entitlement to concessions, including when you’re visiting places of interest. Your registration card might also be useful when you’re trying to get assistance when you’re out, particularly if you do not use a white cane or guide dog and your sight problem may not be obvious to other people.

Questions about certification and registration

Contact our Helpline if you want to know more about certification or registration. Call 0303 123 9999 or email helpline@rnib.org.uk.

You might also want to download a leaflet we have produced that covers not only what’s involved in getting registered, but the benefits and concessions you could be entitled to:

We're here to help

Our Helpline is your direct line to the support, advice, and products you need to face the future with confidence. If you or someone you know has a sight problem, our specialist advice workers can help.

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