Registration (which is entirely voluntary) as visually impaired or severely sight impaired is a big psychological step, but does bring benefits which should be seriously considered. It is also important to note too that statistics and funding for service provision for people with sight problems is often based on the number of people registered in any given area, it even has national consequences. You should register as soon as your reduced vision merits it.
Your eye consultant (ophthalmologist) is the person who will assess whether you qualify for registration and if they think you do qualify, he or she will complete a Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) (form BP1 in Scotland) and send it to your local social services department. The department will then contact you to find out what help and advice you need.
Registering for Adults
When it is difficult for you to read certain lines on a sight test chart or to see people and objects at the side, being registered as sight impaired (partially-sighted) or severely sight impaired (blind) may be considered. Many people believe that the term blind means a total loss of vision, but in fact in the vast majority of cases where people are registered blind or severely sight impaired, some useful vision remains.
Registration for adults provides many financial and social services benefits which are likely to be helpful. Rather than us duplicate readily available information here, comprehensive details of the benefits and advantages of registration can be found at the RNIB website, the relevant pages are at this clickable link and you can also call their helpline for more advice on this subject on 0303 123 9999.
Registration for Children
Although the eye consultant may suggest registration for a child, it is important for you and your family to decide whether you feel it would benefit him or her overall. Your child should be included in the discussion and you should give him or her the opportunity to express their feelings about registration, in addition to considering the financial and service benefits.
At the time, they may choose not to register and this should be respected. If circumstances alter or attitudes about registration change, then it can always be done at a later date.
In law, Local Authority social services departments have a binding responsibility to provide assistance for children with a visual impairment, and registration will secure access to this service. The type of help which is available may include advice on home-living and equipment – learning how to prepare and cook a meal for example. Practical suggestions can be offered to help overcome any limitations caused by visual impairment.
Financial benefits may also be available and advice on these matters can be obtained from social workers. Getting around safely might also be a difficulty and advice on mobility is provided by social services too.
In some areas of the country, this work will be undertaken by a specialist worker for the visually impaired, who is employed by the Local Authority. In other areas there might be another agency contracted to carry out this work on their behalf. The important thing is to know that you can access these services by being registered.
Your local authority social services department will hold and maintain the confidential register (or a local visual impairment organisation on their behalf) and should contact you to ask your permission to add your name.
Many will give you a credit card sized registration card which can be very useful in gaining access to some national and local facilities, or gaining relevant concessions – often including concessions for a companion. The card should have the name, logo and contact details of the issuing agency as well as your name and postcode, and certification that you have been registered either sight impaired (partially sighted) or severely sight impaired (blind). Some local authorities may require a photograph; at present there are no national standards for the cards.