Why register your child's vision impairment?
Registering your child's vision impairment can open the door to a wide range of services and support. In the film below, we follow Nick Radford as he goes through the process of getting certified and registered.
Nick has retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition which leads to progressive loss of vision. In the film he explains that his vision has deteriorated significantly in the last six months and that he is now ready to seek some advice and support.
Nick’s initial reaction to the idea of registering his sight loss was less than positive: “When I was first informed that I could be certified as visually impaired I was in my mid-teens. My initial reaction was very negative and all I could think of was, ‘I’m not disabled, I’m not blind, I’m not going to put myself into that box.’ It was that psychological barrier of thinking that’s me admitting defeat.”
The film dispels myths about registration and clearly explains what’s involved and how it can lead to further support.
If you’re a parent you might feel wary of a “label” unless you can see some advantages for your child. Nick’s take on it is: “I began to realise that whether I’m certified or not, my condition is the same, but with certification come this whole heap of benefits and opportunities and support. As long as I don’t let that sort of define me then it doesn’t change anything, it just helps.”
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, and entirely voluntary. Before someone can register, they need a certificate of vision impairment.
Getting a certificate of vision impairment
Your ophthalmologist uses a combination of how well your child can see detail at a distance (visual acuity) and their field of vision (how much they see to the sides when looking straight ahead) to judge whether they’re eligible to be certified, and at which level. If your child’s level of vision qualifies, the ophthalmologist completes a certificate with the results of your eye examination, indicating if they qualify as severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted) as well as information about their circumstances and their 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. The eye specialist sends copies of the certificate to you, your GP and your local social services. At this point, your child is still not registered.
After receiving a copy of your certificate, your local social services team should contact you to ask if you wish your child to be included on its register of blind and partially sighted people. If you say “yes” then they become registered. If you choose for your child not to be registered, they can still get support from social services.
What happens after you’re registered?
Social services contact you to discuss carrying out a needs assessment. They might identify practical support, equipment or adaptations at home that would help your child be as independent as possible, including your child’s communication, recreational and travel needs and being able to go on holiday. It is good practice to involve a specialist teacher of children with impaired vision in the assessment. The advantages of registering can make life more affordable, enabling you to claim travel concessions and leisure discounts like a cinema card allowing your child to take a companion for free. Some people get help via Council Tax Support and people registered as severely sight impaired can claim up to 50 per cent reduction in their TV Licence. To gain the reduction the TV licence needs to be in the name of the disabled person. Although being registered does not automatically entitle someone to any particular welfare benefits, it often makes them easier to claim. Some councils give a registration card which can help to prove your child’s entitlement to concessions, or to get assistance when you’re out, particularly if your child’s sight problem may not be obvious to others.
Having chosen to be registered Nick Radford comments: “I do regret that I didn’t do it earlier because there is so much help on offer… You don’t need to take any of it but my advice would be to just try and be as objective as possible. I understand the emotions and the fears, but they really are significantly outweighed by the benefits.”