Accessibility obstacles could prevent those with sight loss from receiving support and care.
In the United Kingdom, registering for a Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) is intended to provide access to benefits. But for many citizens, the ‘disjointed’ certification process actually make it more difficult to obtain healthcare, support services and rehabilitation. Professor Shahina Pardhan, Director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), was lead author for the study, which was published in Eye.1
There are two distinct levels of CVI: sight impaired (partially sighted) and severely sight impaired (blind). A CVI enables the patient to register locally for support services, through a Referral of Vision Impairment (RVI). Receiving the certification is a laborious process – an ophthalmologist completes registration which is then approved by the patient’s primary physician, the local authority and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists Certifications Office.
But simply being certified does not trigger public assistance. Registration is voluntary, but it is another step that is required for sight-impaired patients to access services. Those benefits range from transportation to cleaning and cooking services, as well as financial aid and medical assistance.
The 17 participants in the study reported there were many barriers to care. Some were not certain how to register these services, or which they were qualified for based on their needs. Receiving certification was challenging for some patients, who found certain practitioners more likely to issue certification than others.
Even in cases where patients did receive a CVI and a referral to benefits, they faced long waitlists. One patient reported they registered for support services due to sensory impairment but did not hear back after a full year. Others said they did not know who was meant to be their point of contact for scheduling and coordinating services.
“It is clear from our research that many feel the process of registration and certification is disjointed, creating a barrier for people with sight loss,” Pardhan said.2 The researchers indicated that CVI-qualified patients deserved more clarity on a local and national level.
“More timely, efficient, and effective provision of information, advice, and signposting to relevant support services in local social care and third sector organisations, along with more informed decisions around certification and registration by eye health professionals, will benefit patients and improve their wellbeing and quality of life,” Pardhan said.