Low Vision Rehabilitation

Table of Contents

LVRT prepares professionals in rehabilitation, eye care and related fields to work effectively with individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Clinical experience includes low vision rehabilitation as well as primary care experiences.

*Person-first language places people ahead of disabilities in order to reduce labeling and stereotyping.

What Is Low Vision?

Low vision can result from many different eye conditions and diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. People living with low vision typically retain some usable vision and find great assistance from visual aids.

Legal blindness is defined as having a best corrected visual acuity of 20/70 or below in either eye, although this definition should not be taken too literally; legal blindness doesn’t equate to having no vision at all; rather it indicates poor enough vision that daily tasks cannot be accomplished without significant difficulty.

Low Vision Care refers to the evaluation and management of visually impaired individuals by eye care professionals with the aim of helping them overcome the handicapping effects of their visual impairment. This often includes suggesting low Vision Aids such as glasses.

Eyes consist of three primary parts: cornea and lens that focus light entering through pupil; retina that detects image formed by lens; optic nerve carrying signal from retina to brain, where visual information is translated;

Low vision means having some functional vision that allows them to perform daily activities such as reading, driving, cooking and grooming without difficulty. In general, this means being able to distinguish shapes and colors but not fine details; with appropriate Low Vision Aids they may still continue as before. Dr. Walker finds specialising in low vision particularly rewarding – watching patients find renewed joy as they return to doing activities they cherish is truly rewarding for her!


People affected by low vision should undergo a comprehensive assessment. This evaluation aims to help individuals utilize their remaining vision as best possible, using new techniques and devices recommended. However, for it to work successfully it must also involve their willingness to learn them and put them into action.

An optometrist or ophthalmologist trained in low vision will ask their patient a series of questions regarding daily activities and medical history; this differs from a routine eye exam which simply looks at general eye health and wearable glasses. Optometrists or ophthalmologists specialized in low vision can conduct this specialized test.

This test measures visual acuity and field deficit. The results will enable your doctor to establish whether vision loss is due to eye disease or age-related. He or she can then recommend an effective treatment plan and assistive devices as appropriate.

Ophthalmologists may refer their patients to specialists in low vision rehabilitation. These experts will offer training on using new aids and skills needed to maximize usable vision, typically those who have completed a course of study, 350-hour internship and passed an examination.

Ophthalmologists may also refer patients to an orientation and mobility specialist who will assess a person’s ability to navigate both indoor and outdoor environments safely with appropriate equipment, such as canes. An orientation and mobility specialist will then teach this individual how to safely navigate these spaces while making smart decisions for themselves.


Age-related macular degeneration or other diseases affecting the macula are the leading cause of low vision, often blurring central vision (described as reading and driving) as well as making faces, people and moving easily difficult. Other sources include cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy – each can contribute to low vision impairment.

Your favorite activities or hobbies don’t have to change just because of low vision; rather, it may require adapting some techniques in order to continue participating. Adjusting to diminshed vision may prove challenging at first; therefore it is advisable to seek professional assistance who specialize in helping those living with reduced sight.

An extensive low vision evaluation entails an in-depth eye exam to check your current prescription and detect any diseases of the eyes. Your doctor may ask about your lifestyle and goals to gain an understanding of how vision loss has altered their life.

Based on the results of your eye exam, your doctor may suggest low vision aids to assist in your daily activities, such as magnifiers or electronic devices for assistive technology. Instruction will also be given on how best to use these devices such as distance and near viewing strategies as well as optimal lighting conditions and environmental modifications.

Your doctor will assess both functional limitations and lifestyle factors, taking into account your needs for working, playing, travelling and socializing. If necessary, you may be referred to a specialist who can teach you to adapt home and work environments for vision loss as well as providing guidance when using public transit or other forms of travel. Medicare typically covers this service provided by an occupational therapist with training in low vision rehabilitation.

Orientation & Mobility

O&M training enables a person who is blind or visually impaired to orientate themselves in space (orientation), travel safely and efficiently between different places using established tools like long canes, and interpret sensory information such as sound clues, tactile sensations, landmarks and maps.

O&M instructors immerse students in real-world settings to teach the necessary skills for safe movement within home, school, and community environments. Younger students practice orienting themselves around classrooms and buildings while older ones develop strategies for traveling in unfamiliar places like neighborhoods and business areas.

Teaching Age-Appropriate Purposeful Skills (TAPS), developed by the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (Pogrund et al, 1995), offers a comprehensive O&M assessment instrument and curriculum for children 3-21 who are blind or partially sighted. Components of TAPS assessment and curriculum include orientation to space and location recognition as well as traveling in familiar and unfamiliar settings and following directions as well as planning trips (Pogrund et al, 1995).

San Francisco State University’s Master of Arts in Orientation and Mobility program aims to produce qualified professional orientation and mobility specialists capable of working across professional settings. O&M specialists may find employment with local school districts, rehabilitation agencies or VA medical Centers due to a shortage of trained O&M professionals nationwide; therefore the program has been accredited by ACVREP with tuition support available through Kentucky Department of Education.


Vision rehabilitation requires several elements for its success, including effective communication with clients. Ms. Fiderer, Coordinator of Community Services at HKNC will share her experiences working with DeafBlind people and the daily communication challenges they encounter.

Participants of this presentation will gain insight into Eschenbach Optik’s adaptive lenses that incorporate real-time visual enhancement and alert information layered over transparent glasses for those suffering central field loss or low contrast sensitivity, as well as discovering its E-reader capabilities, which can be utilized by both blind/low vision users.

Hunter College Vision Rehabilitation Residency program seeks to offer advanced clinical and didactic experience in all aspects of Low Vision Rehabilitation for optometric graduates interested in this specialty area. Residents will also gain the skills needed for providing vision rehabilitation care as well as leading agencies or organizations involved with this discipline.

About the Author:
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Alexander Suprun

Alex started his first web marketing campaign in 1997 and continues harvesting this fruitful field today. He helped many startups and well-established companies to grow to the next level by applying innovative inbound marketing strategies. For the past 26 years, Alex has served over a hundred clients worldwide in all aspects of digital marketing and communications. Additionally, Alex is an expert researcher in healthcare, vision, macular degeneration, natural therapy, and microcurrent devices. His passion lies in developing medical devices to combat various ailments, showcasing his commitment to innovation in healthcare.


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