Tips for Vision Loss

Eligibility

All services are available to New York State residents who are legally blind. Legal blindness is defined as having a visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better or stronger eye with best correction, or a restricted field of vision of 20 degrees or less in the better or stronger eye.

VISIONS does offer rehabilitation services to individuals who do not meet the legal blindness standard or who do not have proof of legal residency under a program unique to VISIONS.

VISIONS may also serve residents of states other than New York under arrangement with the state commission for the blind in the referring state.

Getting Started

To apply

To apply for vision rehabilitation therapy, orientation and mobility, workforce and job placement, the vocational rehabilitation center at VISIONS Center on Blindness, and certain youth services, VISIONS generally requires a referral from the NYS Commission for the Blind or the Commission for the Blind in your home state. A medical eye report less than a year old is required for the above services. VISIONS will assist people new to legal blindness to register with the NYS Commission for the Blind.

Participation

People with severe vision loss as well as people who are legally blind are welcome to participate in programs at VISIONS Center on Blindness, VISIONS at Selis Manor, and VISIONS unpaid caregiver support program. A medical eye report is not required. Severe vision loss refers to someone with vision loss that interferes with day to day functioning.

For help with getting started please contact Carmen Rivera Intake coordinator 212-625-1616 or by email crivera@visionsvcb.org

Low Vision

If someone does not meet the definition of legal blindness but has a visual impairment that impacts their daily activities they could be classified as having low vision.  Anyone with non-correctable reduced vision is visually impaired. The World Health Organization uses the following classifications of visual impairment.

When the vision in the better eye with best possible correction wearing glasses is:

20/30 to 20/60

this is considered mild vision loss, or near-normal vision

20/70 to 20/160

this is considered moderate visual impairment, or moderate low vision.

20/200 to 20/400

this is considered severe visual impairment, or severe low vision.

20/500 to 20/1,000

this is considered profound visual impairment, or profound low vision.

less than 20/1,000

this is considered near-total visual impairment, or near-total blindness.

no light perception

this is considered total visual impairment, or total blindness.

There are also levels of visual impairment based on visual field loss (loss of peripheral vision).

In the United States, any person with vision that cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in the best eye, or who has 20 degrees or less of visual field remaining, is considered legally blind.

Daily Living

The best way to determine if you are at risk or developing an eye disease is to get a dilated eye exam from an eye care specialist (optometrist or ophthalmologist). Most at risk are people over the age of 60, people of color (African-American, Latino and Asian populations), and people with a family history of eye disease. People with blue or light eye color are at greater risk for certain eye diseases.

If you notice a flash or your vision suddenly becomes blurry or fuzzy, see an eye care specialist as soon as possible. It might be nothing to worry about but it could be a sign of a problem.

Remember lighting matters. Use focused lighting for projects and reading. The lamp should be placed behind your shoulder and the light should focus on your work.

Remove small area or throw rugs. They can be tripping hazards.

Stop smoking. It is not only bad for your health it is bad for your sight.

Vision loss can affect different people differently based on a number of factors including the type of eye disease diagnosis.  This means that interventions that improve function for one person can decrease function for another person.

Reduce glare. Use window shades or blinds to block out harsh sunlight. Do not face the window. Move your chair or table so your back is to the window or light source.

Remember to wear sunglasses, even in winter. Unprotected eyes may be more prone to certain eye diseases. Snow creates as much glare as sand at the shore.

Stay active and exercise and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. This not only helps with maintaining a healthy weight but it is good for your eyes.

Lighting can be a prime example where more light helps some people with vision related task but with others, too much light (especially glare) can decrease functional vision.

High contrast helps. Keep light and dark items or surfaces next to each other. For example, if your table is white, use dark colored dishes.  If the table and dishes are white or pastel, use a dark place mat.

Wear protective glasses when your work or play puts your eyes at risk.

Some combination of vitamins in specific amounts could be good for your eyes. Talk to your eye doctor to see if a vitamin supplement could reduce your risk for certain eye diseases.

What is Legal Blindness?

Legal Blindness is a term used to qualify for services covered by the New York State Commission for the Blind. It is the same definition used for qualifying as a blind person for social security disability, supplemental security income (SSI), Medicaid and Food Stamp benefits.  Legally blindness does NOT mean that you have no vision.  You can be declared legally blind and still use your residual vision for your daily activities.   Most people who are classified as "blind" actually have remaining sight. Legal blindness is defined as having a visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better or stronger eye with best standard correction, or a restricted field of vision of 20 degrees or less in the better or stronger eye. Many people who are legally blind or totally blind learn how to manage with their vision loss. People who are blind graduate from college, work, raise families, play sports and do everything that a full sighted person can do, they just do it differently using non-visual methods and techniques.

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