After or in conjunction with treatment by the optometrist or ophthalmologist, there is more help available that is of the most practical kind.
Vision Rehabilitation refers to the services that restore independence after vision loss. It does not mean that the vision itself is rehabilitated, but rather the person with vision loss receives the services and training that bring independence and maintain quality of life. People who are blind receive these services as well as those who have some usable vision — which most people do.
Vision Rehabilitation services are provided by several different specialized professionals. It takes a team of professionals with their specialized knowledge and the support of family and peers to help most people with vision loss regain their sense of self and the skills needed to live independently.
A more accurate description of these professionals would be to say they are experts on blindness. They know what the appropriate response should be when vision loss occurs.
These professionals have post-graduate degrees in vision rehabilitation and must complete an intensive internship. National certification is available but not all choose to go through the certification process.
The Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) offers certification.
All three professions have knowledge of:
For a complete description of each please refer to ACVREP.
A Low Vision Therapist performs a functional vision assessment to assess acuity, visual fields, contrast sensitivity, and visual perceptual and visual motor functioning.
When the person’s visual ability is severely compromised, a Low Vision Therapist will refer to a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist for additional services.
A Vision Rehabilitation Therapist’s expertise encompasses that of the Low Vision Therapist with the addition of special skills and knowledge, such as braille to teach adaptive independent living skills to people with no useable vision.
Teaches a person with vision loss how to travel independently both indoors and outdoors. Training is one-on-one. It usually, but not always includes instruction on how to use a white cane (called a “mobility cane”).
Optometrists are the first line of detection and defense for eye diseases and disorders. They conduct eye examinations, diagnose eye diseases and disorders, and prescribe corrective lenses. They will often see additional training to become specialists in a specific area such as neuro-optometry or geriatric eye care.
Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in the medical and surgical care of the eyes. They can provide the full range of care from prescribing glasses to performing surgery. Often they will specialize in a specific area of eye medicine and become, for example, a retinal specialist.
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists may choose to specialize in the unique needs of low vision patients. Low Vision Therapists are often found working closely with Low Vision Specialists.