Low Vision Services

Low vision services are provided to individuals with reduced visual acuity or visual field deficit that is not correctable by conventional spectacles, contact lenses or surgery. These individuals are often told that "nothing more can be done" for them and are at risk of spiraling into depression due to their loss of independence and ability to perform daily activities. However, even individuals with severe to total vision loss can maintain an active and independent lifestyle. The practice of low vision rehabilitation empowers doctors of optometry to maximize their patient's function, independence, and overall health. These services help patients move beyond the belief that "nothing more can be done" for their vision loss. 

Optometric low vision services include consultation includes:

  1. A functional and social history, which includes patient's ability to read instructions, administer medications, use a microwave, write checks, walking, seeing food on their plate, pouring beverages or positioning a key in a lock; their living arrangement, transportation concerns, social/familial responsibilities, etc.

  2. Screening for depression and behavioral changes associated with loss of activity and independence due to vision loss.

  3. Assessment of visual status including:
    • Visual acuity assessment
    • Visual field assessment
    • Determination of a preferred retinal locus
    • Contrast sensitivity assessment
    • Determination of refractive status

  4. Patient education on
    • The nature of their eye disease
    • Why conventional glasses or surgery will not improve their vision
    • Availability and benefits of low vision therapy/training

  5. Exploration and education of low vision strategies, aids and adaptations

  6. Referral, when appropriate, to occupational therapy or other vision rehabilitation professionals for therapy/training options that may include in office, in home, outpatient facility or combinations of care

Primary Eye Care & Low Vision

Although not every doctor of optometry specializes in low vision rehabilitation, primary eye care physicians should be able to identify, refer and guide patients to needed low vision services. All doctors of optometry should educate individuals with vision loss about the basic nature of their disease/pathology and why conventional glasses or surgery will not improve their vision. This understanding helps individuals with vision loss move forward and be more accepting of low vision services. Doctors of optometry should also look for signs that their patient's vision impairments may be causing difficulties in performing normal activities. Subjective complaints of individuals with seemingly normal visual acuity could indicate a need for low vision services.


The AOA is committed to helping to connect more low vision patients with low vision services, as well as helping our doctors provide those services. Our goals include:

  1. Educating policymakers, patients and other professions about the importance of low vision services provided by doctors of optometry and the impact of those service.

  2. Providing resources that help members provide more low vision services.

  3. Advocating for scope of practice laws that allow doctors of optometry to practice low vision to the fullest extent of their training and expertise.

  4. Advocating for increase coverage and access to low vision services.


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