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  • By Galton Vasconcelos, MD; Luciene C. Fernandes, MD
    Low Vision


    This information sheet has been prepared for parents who want to speak with teachers and school administrators about securing low-vision services for their children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

    If your child is aged 3–21 and has an individualized education program (IEP), their school will provide

    • Access to the general education curriculum
    • Accommodations
    • Special education and related services
    • Assistive technology services

    Low-vision services apply to these provisions. They should be, but are not always available through the IDEA. They include

    • Clinical low-vision evaluation
    • Purchase of optical and/or electronic devices
    • Instruction in the use of the devices

    An interdisciplinary team of professionals from several disciplines is recommended for any assessment of a child with visual impairment (or other disabilities). Generally, team members may include ophthalmologists, pediatricians, neurologists, optometrists, orthoptists, educators, psychologists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, and nurses who work together, with the family, to plan appropriate interventions. An interdisciplinary team is especially helpful for a child who has cerebral visual impairment.

    The following information explains how low-vision services might be linked to the provisions of the IDEA.

    Clinical Low-Vision Evaluations

    These evaluations are conducted by ophthalmologists or optometrists with a low-vision specialty and are considered a "related service." Under the IDEA, there are 2 related service provisions that apply to this evaluation:

      • Medical evaluation to improve a child's functioning within special education
      • Assistive technology evaluation: For a child with low vision, one part of a clinical low-vision evaluation is to determine whether optical and/or electronic devices will assist your child in school and at home.

    Purchase of Assistive Technologies (Devices)

    Under the IDEA, schools purchase devices that will improve your child's functioning in school. Once a device included on an IEP, the school becomes responsible for purchase and maintenance of the device. If a child needs a device for homework and it cannot be transported home, a duplicate device can be purchased by the school.

    Instruction in Using Optical/Electronic Devices

    IDEA also provides for instruction in the use of assistive devices. For optical and/or electronic devices that will be used in classrooms and within your child's school, your child's teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) will provide this instruction. This instruction includes the use of handheld, spectacle-mounted, and electronic devices for seeing at near (e.g., books) and at a distance (e.g., whiteboard).

    A certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS) will provide instruction for your child in the use of distance devices for such tasks as reading street signs and finding addresses. They are ready to help your child to use their functional vision.

    Please contact your child's school to request low-vision services. The IDEA law is available online (