Individuals with sight impairment can be certified as Sight Impaired (previously referred to as Partially Sighted) or Severely Sight Impaired (previously Blind) if they wish. Certification is a voluntary, confidential process which informs a person’s local social services of their sight impairment.
There are specific guidelines for each level of certification. A consultant ophthalmologist must determine whether your vision (while wearing glasses or contact lenses) meets said guidelines. The guidelines relate to visual acuity (detail vision) and the field of vision (area of useful vision).
If you are eligible for certification and wish to be certified, you will be asked to sign a Certificate of Visual Impairment (CVI) form. Often this is facilitated by the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) who can answer any questions about the process and the benefits of certification. The CVI form is signed by you and your consultant ophthalmologist. A copy is given to you and another is filed in your medical notes.
The completed form is then sent to your local social services which will then ask if you would like to be included in its register of sight impaired and severely sight impaired people. This process is called registration.
Once registered, your local social services will carry out a Social Care and Rehabilitation Assessment to determine the support and advice you require to remain independent. They may identify practical support, equipment or adaptations at home that can help you.
For example, if your sight loss impedes your mobility, they might suggest one-to-one mobility training to increase your confidence with navigation with the use of aids such as a mobility cane. For children with sight loss, this would include a referral to a Qualified Teacher for children and young people with Visual Impairment (QTVI).
A range of concessions are available to you once you are registered. These include:
- Half-price TV license
- Leisure discounts
- Help with NHS costs
- Tax allowances
- Free or discounted public transport
The type of concessions that you are eligible for depends on the level of registration (sight impaired or severely sight impaired). Although registration in itself does not automatically entitle you to a particular welfare benefit, it can make it easier for you to make a claim.