Vision Science Research Group

Registration of a Visual Impairment - What does this mean?

    Visual Impairment

    Visual impairment can be described in many ways, including sight loss, partial sight, low vision, and blindness.

    It is very rare that anyone is truly blind, in that most people see something, even if it is only to distinguish light and dark. In education, it is customary to discuss sight problems in terms of ‘sensory impairment’.

    This is then divided into two categories: ‘severely sight impaired’ and ‘sight impaired’, which are often referred to as ‘blind’ and ‘partially sighted’. These terms have a medical definition and the World Health Organisation defines ‘Sight impaired (partial sight)’ as a visual acuity score of less than 6/18 and ‘Severely sight impaired (Blind)’ as a visual acuity score of less than 3/60. A person whose visual acuity meets these criteria may be registered as having partial sight or blindness by an ophthalmologist. In addition, significant visual field loss (a restriction in the extent of your peripheral vision) may also mean someone is registered blind or partially sighted.

    Whilst registration can bring benefits, registration of a visual impairment is not mandatory and it sometimes doesn’t happen because of anticipated stigma or an uncertain prognosis.

    Furthermore, children with special needs, where other medical conditions are the primary concern, may never have visual impairment formerly registered, or even identified.

    The RNIB website contains further information about the process ofcertification/registration of someone with a visual impairment.