What is low vision?

Low vision is a visual impairment (usually reduced visual acuity and/or visual field) that is not corrected by medicine, surgery, contact lenses, nor standard glasses.  People with low vision have difficulty performing everyday activities, such as reading and watching TV.

What is low vision rehabilitation?

Low vision rehabilitation starts with an examination by a specially trained low vision optometrist or ophthalmologist.  These professionals understand the underlying eye disease/disorder and its specific impact on vision function.  After the low vision evaluation, the doctor develops a rehabilitation plan and may prescribe prescription eyewear, optical devices, electronic aids, adaptive computer software, glare control, modification of the student’s environment, counseling, education of the patient and family, skills training, orientation and mobility, independent living aids, and/or occupational therapy.

How does the low vision examination differ from an ordinary eye examination?

A low vision evaluation differs from an ordinary eye examination.  It involves a detailed functional history, different evaluation equipment and methods, and test charts scaled for those with only partial sight.  It employs a functional emphasis and often a multidisciplinary approach.  A systematic process helps the low vision doctor determine the type and power of devices that might be helpful for a child/student's individual needs.  Following a low vision evaluation, recommendations are made for managing the child/student's barriers to learning due to his/her visual impairment.  These interventions may include: specialty glasses, telescopes (hand held or spectacle mounted), various types and powers of optical magnification devices for near work, tinted lenses to help with glare experienced by many with eye disease, training techniques to maximize the vision that remains and in the use of any recommended devices, iPad, electronic or computer aided equipment that maximizes vision, and referral for care by other professional services, such as orientation and mobility. These tests employ advanced techniques with special charts, tools, and equipment typically not found in most eye doctors’ offices.

After this baseline vision information is obtained, the doctor then determines the student’s best corrected visual acuity (i.e., determines the best spectacle prescription), field of vision, and evaluates the child with various low vision rehabilitation prosthetic devices, such as magnifiers, telescopes, light filters, electronic aids, and computers.  Then, armed with all this information, the doctor, alongside the student’s team members, develops the low vision rehabilitation plan.  This plan can include the prescription of various devices, training, or other recommendations specific to the child’s rehabilitation and educational vision needs.

Is low vision rehabilitation successful?

Simply put, YES!  There are numerous studies that note significant improvement in vision function after a patient participates in a low vision rehabilitation program.