Vision Rehabilitation

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The AOA has long since understood the importance of strengthening optometry's role in Vision Rehabilitation.  For patients, increased access to vision rehabilitation services provides an opportunity to attain maximum function, well-being, independence, and quality of life (AOA Vision Rehabilitation definition).  For doctors of optometry, choosing to provide vision rehabilitation services represents an opportunity to expand their patient base and be able to practice to their full potential.

In an AOA-sponsored report, Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow (2016), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) affirmed the importance of Vision Rehabilitation services:

"For individuals with vision impairment that cannot be corrected by available refractive, medical, or surgical treatments, vision rehabilitation has the potential to prevent depression and emotional distress and to improve or maintain [Quality of Life], the ability to perform daily activities, and overall visual ability (NASEM, P. 382)"

Despite the need for these services and the benefits that they yield, many patients face barrirers that prevent them from receiving the vision rehabilitation services they need. NASEM has identifed the following as major barriers to vision rehabilitation services:

  • Awareness:  Many patients and providers, including doctors of optometry and referring physicians, are not aware of benefits of Vision Rehabilitation services. Therefore, they do not provide or refer vision rehabilitation services.
  • Workforce: The lack of eye doctors who provide vision rehabilitation services prevents many patients from accessing needed care.  This deficiency can be caused by restrictive scope of practice laws, refusal of insurers to reimburse doctors of optometry for vision rehabilitation services, as well as many optometry practicies that are not equipped to provide those services
  • Research: Inadequate research services constrains treatment options that providers may consider or confidently recommend.
  • Disparity: As with almost all health care services, patients from disenfranchised backgrounds face social, economic, and cultural barriers to care.    

To better address these barriers, the AOA has converted he Vision Rehabilitation Section into the Vision Rehabilitation Committee (VRC) and Vision Rehabilitation Advocacy Network (VRAN). Both will be under AOA's Advocacy Group in order to better coordinate advocacy efforts designed to address the above barriers and strengthen optometry's role in vision rehabilitation. Furthermore, Vision Rehabilitation resources will be available to all members of the AOA at no additional fees.*

*Most Vision Rehabilitation materials will be free. However, the AOA may develop more extensive reference materials--such brochures, books, and guides--for a low cost to members at AOA Marketplace.