What is low vision?


This RNIB guide covers:

  • How could a low vision assessment help my child?
  • Who conducts a low vision assessment?
  • How is it different to the functional vision assessment my child’s QTVI did?
  • Does it matter how old my child is?
  • How can I get a low vision assessment?
  • Is it free on the NHS?
  • What sort of advice and equipment might be on offer?
  • Can low vision aids only help with close work?
  • Who will teach my child how to use them?
  • Is a low vision assessment a one-off or should my child have another one?
  • My child is reluctant to use low vision aids. What can I do?
  • All my child’s work is enlarged at school. What’s the point of learning to use magnifiers?
  • My child will soon be 16. How do adults get a low vision assessment?

The following information is taken from RNIB’s website.

Low vision service provision across the UK is very variable and may be based

  • in a local hospital
  • located in opticians’ practices
  • offered from a resource centre run by the local society for people with sight loss

Ask your QTVI for information about low vision clinics in your area. You can also contact your local hospital eye department or speak to your doctor or local society for people with sight loss.

Low vision clinics should have a range of low vision equipment such as hand held magnifiers and stand magnifiers. They will work with you to identify which low vision aids are most suitable for you. They can also provide advice on lighting and on glare control and non-optical aids. Some types of equipment are available on a long term loan basis.

RNIB information on low vision services

In England

The Low Vision Centre in London provides a specialist rehabilitation service for people who have been diagnosed as having low vision. The service enables people to get the help they need by looking at their everyday needs and difficulties. This service is available to people who live in Camden or Islington, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Kensington and Chelsea.

In Northern Ireland

Low Vision services in Northern Ireland form part of the hospital service. You can find out more about these services by contacting an RNIB Eye Care Liaison Officer (ECLO). An ECLO can help you link to your relevant Eye Clinic or Low Vision service. Details of your nearest ECLO can be found on the ‘Eye Care Liaison Service RNIB Northern Ireland’ pages.

In Scotland

Low vision referrals in Scotland can be made through your GP or Eye Clinic. You can contact your Local Authority Social Work Department and/or Local Society to arrange an appointment.

In Wales

The Low Vision Service in Wales is a free service which provides a range of low vision aids that may be useful to you. Equipment provided includes handheld magnifiers, task lamps and even high tech electronic low vision aids. The eyecare Wales website is the best way to find out more about this service and how it operates in Wales. There are now two ways to search for services on the website. People can either search for services within 2, 5, 10 or 25 miles from their postcode or they can search for services by county.

A guide to the low vision services and the low vision aids available for children in Wales

The importance of good lighting

For learners with vision impairment, this link takes you to a discussion of the difference good lighting makes.

Good lighting at school and at home is important to consider.

iPad magnifier

Increasingly, iPads are also being used in classrooms for magnification purposes. There is a magnifier option in the IPad’s accessibility setting which enables the camera to act as a magnifier, using a slide bar to determine the level of magnification.

Typical types of magnifiers available for long term loan

Hand held magnifiers

Hand held magnifiers are available in different sizes, different magnification strengths and can include a light.

Dome magnifier

A dome magnifier is good for enlarging text on flat surface and can come with reading guide line. Different magnification levels are available.

Stand magnifier

Stand magnifiers allow hands-free magnification.

Bar magnifier

A bar magnifier magnifies a line of text at a time and can come with a reading guide line.