How many people have low vision?
There are 80 million people worldwide who have permanent vision impairment and can potentially benefit from low vision services. Most of those with low vision are older people and the numbers will double over the next 20-30 years because of the aging population. The number of children in need of low vision care worldwide is 6 million, of these children; 4.8 million live in low and middle income countries.
Impact of low vision
Low vision not only affects the independence but has significant psychosocial and economic impact on the individual, the family and society. Major consequences of vision impairment include a child’s ability to pursue education and an adult’s ability for gainful employment, higher risk of death, risk of falls, difficulties with daily living and increased dependence. Management of low vision through the provision of good quality services which are scalable, adaptable, cost effective and responsive to the population remains a VISION 2020 priority. The WHO’s health systems framework, Education for All, Global Campaign for Education and United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provide the foundation for low vision services to reduce risk, promote best practice and so increase the quality of clinical and non-clinical care.
Low vision services
The concept of a comprehensive eye service involves the components of prevention of blindness, treatment of eye disease, eye health promotion and rehabilitation services for persons with incurable eye conditions.
Development of low vision services at primary, secondary and tertiary levels as part of national eye health plans is critical to ensure that these services are sustainable. Low vision care is long-term by nature. People’s vision and needs change over time. It is, therefore, important that a system is in place starting from proper identification; assessment; referral; training and support services. The elements of low vision care need to be provided by different professionals working in eye health, education and rehabilitation sectors. Multi-disciplinary and multi-agency working is essential to provide user-centered, cost-effective and comprehensive services.
Advances in low vision
Last few years have seen tremendous growth in adaptive technology. Numbers of new applications are available on the mobile phones and personal computer which can complement the use of conventional low vision devices and enhance comfort, access and social acceptability. It is important for persons involved in provision of low vision care to have a broad overview of the advances in technology so that they can advise and guide their clients.
(IAPB acknowledges Sumrana Yasmin, Brien Holden Vision Institute for this article)