What are Low Vision Services?
Low Vision Services are provided by Orthoptists.
Orthoptists are often the first port of call at Guide Dogs because they can support you to understand your level of ‘functional vision’. Or, the amount of vision you can use in your daily life to identify and engage with different objects.
Once you understand your level of functional vision, an Orthoptist can provide techniques and tailor equipment to support your specific vision goals around reading or watching different materials.
Perhaps you’d like to read your mail, flip through the newspaper, or learn about the ingredients in different products at the supermarket for your dietary requirements? Maybe you’ll be able to see the TV better if you sit at a certain angle in your lounge room? After a functional vision assessment, orthoptists will understand your unique goals and assist you to make life easier when reading, watching TV, and more.
Even if you’ve tried using a magnifier or a piece of equipment you bought from a shop, orthoptists can recommend highly specific equipment that is uniquely suited to your exact vision.
What practical skills can I learn in Low Vision Services?
It really depends on your situation, what you’re hoping to achieve, and the type of equipment that may work best for you.
Some common skills and techniques include:
- Reading books, newspapers or magazines for enjoyment.
- Reading your mail independently to ensure all your sensitive information is private.
- Reading prices and labels in shops and supermarkets.
- Reading and identifying different ingredients in food products or medications.
- How to position furniture and devices in your home so that you can watch TV or movies comfortably and with ease.
What does a functional vision assessment involve?
To understand your unique level of functional vision, orthoptists will conduct a ‘functional vision assessment’.
The assessment is a series of tests designed to work out:
- What can you see?
- How far or close does something need to be for you to read the words?
- How bright does something need to be for you to read the text?
- Does the text need to be placed in a certain area or location for you to identify it?
- How long can you concentrate when reading or watching different things?
- Can you see things easier or more clearly if you look in a specific direction?
Sometimes, the answers to these questions can help an orthoptist to decide on the best techniques or assistive technologies for you.
In other situations, these tests can provide useful information for family members, friends, carers, or other health professionals. For example, if your child is too young to speak about their vision—or an older person cannot talk for any reason—a functional vision assessment can provide valuable information about how much they’re able to see, and in what unique situations, so that we can determine the best supports or options for their situation.
The tests are flexible depending on your story: sometimes they can be completed in one quick visit, and sometimes they may take a little longer, or require multiple visits.
Where do Low Vision services take place?
Although orthoptists focus on vision rather than Orientation and Mobility training, they still love to get out and about in the community!
Functional vision assessments can happen anywhere you’re comfortable.
Orthoptist sessions can take place:
- In dedicated spaces at Guide Dogs community centres,
- In kindergartens,
- In schools,
- In your home,
- And in various other places depending on your needs.