Low Vision Rehabilitation Teams and Services
The vision rehabilitation team’s assessment is different than the eye examination by our eye doctor as it is not focused on diagnosing or treating eye disease, but rather on helping you find ways to continue to do tasks despite the vision loss. Start the process of vision rehabilitation as soon as you experience limitations or difficulties from a loss of vision.
The vision rehabilitation team will assess additional aspects of how your eyes function, how you accomplish tasks and what your goals are. They will help you learn new ways to use your remaining vision or new strategies to complete everyday tasks and maintain your quality of life. They may show you new glasses, magnifiers or electronic devices and connect you to additional services.
Specialized professionals called Orientation and Mobility specialists (COMS) help individuals identify the adjustments they need to make to maximize safe and independent travel.
Make the Most of Your Remaining Vision: Using Your "Next-Best Spot"
When you have a blind spot (scotoma) in the center of your vision you will naturally find a "next-best spot." You may hear this referred to as your preferred retinal locus or PRL. Adapting to using noncentral vision usually will require magnification and some training.
Vision Rehabilitation Professionals
Your vision rehabilitation team may include:
- An ophthalmologist
- A low-vision specialist
- An occupational therapist
- A rehabilitation teacher
- An orientation and mobility specialist, who focuses on independent and safe travel
- A social worker
- A counselor
- An assistive technology professional
Vision Rehabilitation Teams for Children, Parents and Educators
In addition to the specialists above, children may be helped by:
- An ophthalmologist with experience working with children
- A low-vision specialist with experience working with children
- A teacher of students with visual impairment (TSVI)
- In the United States:
- If under 3 years old, an individual family service plan (IFSP)
- If over 3 years old, an individual education plan (IEP) if the low vision affects education as determined by the special education team
- If over 3 years old, a Section 504 plan (under the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973) that guarantees safe access to the learning environment as determined by your special education team
What to Look for in Vision Rehabilitation Services
When checking out low vision rehabilitation services near you, ask if services include:
- A low vision evaluation by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
- Prescription for devices.
- Are some devices loaned before purchase, or returnable?
- Rehabilitation training: for reading, writing, shopping, cooking, lighting and glare control
- Home assessment
- Mobility services
- Resources and support groups
It is important to ask if services are free, or if they are billed to Medicare or other insurance. If not, what is the charge? The Veterans Administration usually covers evaluation and devices for veterans.
There are other devices and aids to child development available through the early intervention programs, schools, and the American Printing House. Grants can be applied for by the school or early intervention services.