Support with sight loss
Our page on Sight loss and eye care provides information on the kinds of conditions which can lead to sight loss, and on how you can look after your sight. On this page we look at the support on offer to help you to manage the effects of your sight loss.
Registering your sight loss
Some levels of sight loss qualify you to be registered as blind or partially sighted. Registering means that you can get access to a number of benefits including:
- free advice on dealing with sight loss
- free sight tests
- special equipment to help you (see below)
- discounts on your TV Licence
- some disability benefits
- discounts on public transport such as a Disabled Person's Railcard
- free or discounted corrective lenses (if these are suitable for you)
To register you will first need to be seen by a consultant ophthalmologist (eye specialist). Ask your doctor or optician to refer you. The opthmamologist will conduct a series of tests to measure your vision and, depending on the results of the test, will issue you with a Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI).
If you are issued with a CVI you can then choose to register as blind or partially sighted with your local council. To do this you will need to complete a Consent to Register Form, sent to you by your council. Your council will then issue you with a National Registration Card which will entitle you to access the benefits listed above.
There are many pieces of equipment available to assist you to overcome the problems presented by your sight loss, and to enable you to adapt your environment so that it is better suited to your needs.
Many people will be familiar with the white canes which people use, both to tell those around them that they have a sight loss, and to allow them to navigate round potential obstacles more safely.
Other equipment options include:-
- talking books
- liquid level indicators
- writing frames
- symbol canes
- large button telephones
- talking clocks and watches
The Disability Living Foundation's Living Made Easy website provides information on many types of equipment available to support people with varying levels of sight loss, and to help them to live as independently as possible.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) website has a 'shop' section which offers all kinds of supportive equipment, as well as specially adapted toys, games and other leisure items.
Our Equipment to help at home page gives details of other websites who offer equipment to support people with disabilities, including those with a sight impairment.
There are over 4,700 guide dog owners in the UK. If you are blind or partially sighted, a guide dog could change your life by enabling you to be independently mobile when out and about.
The Guide Dog charity provides both dogs to people who are blind or partially sighted, and training on how to use them
The My Guide scheme
The Guide Dog charity also arrange for volunteers to act as guides and to support people with sight loss as they get out about and about. The My Guide scheme offers training to the volunteers, and also offers training to businesses to help them to meet the needs of customers with sight loss.
Braille and other 'tactile codes'
Many people will be familiar with the braille system which replaces letters with patterns of raised dots; a blind or partially-sighted person can learn to read these 'letters' by touching them.
The RNIB website provides information on how to use and learn braille and other similar systems
Most local councils employ a specialist worker to work with people with significant sight loss, and to help them to identify strategies and equipment which will allow them to live a more independent life.
The specialist worker will complete an assessment with you, and will look at issues such as the following:-
- Daily living skills training - help with tasks such as making a hot drink safely, general kitchen safety, cleaning and sewing
- Communications - help with reading and writing, using magnifiers, telling the time, using the telephone, learning Braille, typing and computer skills.
- Mobility - help with getting around safely, indoors and outside. Help offered with aids such as canes and support sticks; advice on how to get help from family/friends and members of the public
- Lighting - help with the lighting in your home. This can be assessed and suggestions for improvements made.
- Information and advice - on all subjects relating to visual impairment e.g equipment, support groups, access to printed information, employment issues
To contact your local council and request a specialist assessment in relation to your sight loss:-
Kensington and Chelsea
Address: The Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8 7NX
Tel: 020 7361 2968
Minicom: 020 7937 7232
SMS: 07980 211335
Fax: 020 7361 2148
Kensington and Chelsea have produced a leaflet called Services for blind and partially-sighted people in Kensington and Chelsea with details of how to contact the Sensory Impairment Team direct, as well as information on the kind of support which you might receive.
Tel: 020 7641 1444 OR 020 7641 1175
Fax No: 020 7641 5426
Westminster have produced a leaflet about their Visual Impairment Rehabilitation Service.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is the leading charity in the UK offering information, support and advice to almost two million people with sight loss.
Amongst their many services are a Tele-Befriending scheme bringing together people on the phone, and a team offering emotional support and counselling.
The Thomas Pocklington Trust provide specialist housing for people with visual impairments, and also provide advice, both online and in booklets, on adapting your current home and living with a sight impairment.
The Macular Society provide advice and support for people with macular conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Blind Aid provide various support services to blind people and people with visual impairments living in London.
The Listening Eye national helpline for those having difficulty with their eyesight, and is staffed by people with a visual impairment and wide experience of coming to terms with it.
Tel: 0800 783 1979 (6 to 10pm Tues, Wed and Thurs)
Metro is a London-based Sports and Social Club for blind and partially sighted people of all ages. Members include many of the UK's top international sports men and women, but they are also here for those who are new to sport or who want to enjoy less competitive activities.
The London Sports Club For The Blind promotes and organizes recreational activities for blind and and partially sighted adults in the Greater London area.