A low-vision service is a network of support and provision for people with sight loss. Central to this is the low vision clinic where a low vision assessment is carried out.
A person with low vision is unable to, having difficulty doing, their activities of daily living due to their vision, even when they are wearing their most up to date spectacles or contact lenses. Patients do not need to be registered as sight impaired or severely sight impaired to benefit from low vision services. In fact there are many people whose vision is below the driving standard but far from meeting the registration criteria. The earlier a person is referred to a low vision clinic the better rather than waiting until nothing further can be done to help them from a medical perspective.
A low vision assessment is carried out by a low vision practitioner (usually an optometrist, dispensing optician or orthoptist, and sometimes a vision rehabilitation specialist). These services are commissioned locally in England and NI and nationally in Scotland and Wales.
To find your local service you can search the Sightline Directory.
The low vision assessment and low vision aids will be provided free of charge by the NHS in the local commissioned service. Low vision aids will include magnifiers, hobby and monoculars or binoculars. These will be prescribed specifically for the activities that the individual requires and patients should get this advice before considering purchasing magnifiers online. The practitioner will also discuss and/or provide electronic magnifiers (provision of these is limited to certain regions only).
The practitioner will also go through strategies for seeing too, this helps the person to make the most of their vision. These strategies include:
- Making things bigger
- Making things bolder
- Improved use of lighting
- Audio options
- Tactile options
- Scanning techniques
Low vision service information:
Help with low vision
Low vision and low vision services
It is important to advise those patients who would be eligible for registration as to how this can be achieved and what the benefits are. The booklet in this link explains the process and the criteria. NB there is discretion in these criteria such that some people are considered for registration under exceptional circumstances even though they do not technically meet the criteria (such as in cerebral visual impairment).
Criteria for registration as sight impaired
Sightline directory to search local ECLO
Low vision hints, tips and information booklet