Adults with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to have a serious sight problem than other people. However, we know that sometimes people with learning disabilities can miss out on the care and services they should be receiving.

People with learning disabilities should have an eye test every two years or more often if needed. If an eye condition is identified, this should be kept under review at the hospital eye clinic or optometrist.

People with learning disabilities should have access to treatment and surgery for their eye condition. SeeAbility has lots of resources on this Looking After Your Eyes website to help with this.

This page explains some of the considerations for care and support for people with learning disabilities who have a visual impairment.

Some eye hospital clinics have eye clinic liaison officers who can offer advice and support about the services mentioned on this page.

Certification, Registration and Rehabilitation Workers

Visual impairment, depending on the severity, can be registered as severely sight impaired (formerly blind) or sight impaired (formerly partially sighted). A Certificate of Visual Impairment (CVI) is completed by an ophthalmologist at the hospital eye clinic and sent to the sensory team who hold the register. Registration is seen as a formal statement of someone’s sight loss and can make it easier for people to access certain entitlements and support.

Everyone who is registered should be contacted by their local authority and offered an assessment of their needs relating to their visual impairment. Ideally, this assessment will be carried out by a visual impairment specialist such as a Rehabilitation Worker. Rehabilitation Workers can teach everyday living skills and advise on other support available to the person.

People with learning disabilities are entitled to receive this service as much as any other visually impaired person. This service should not be ruled out because someone has a learning disability or is living in a care home. Carers who are supporting the person with a learning disability will not usually be aware of the additional services available to those with a visual impairment. Rehabilitation Workers are usually based in Sensory Teams or at a local voluntary society for the blind.

Voluntary societies for the blind

These societies operate in most areas of the country. They can offer a wide range of services such as advice, social groups, volunteer services and resource centres with equipment for people with a visual impairment. If possible, it can be useful to visit a resource centre to see the wide range of equipment available. This includes mobility aids, equipment for the kitchen, communication aids and adapted games.

Low vision services

There is much that can be done to help a visually impaired person make the best use of their vision. Magnifying glasses, additional lighting, other reading devices or adapted techniques can help someone to remain independent. Low vision services can be based at hospitals, local voluntary societies or can be provided by Rehabilitation Workers.

You can prepare for this appointment by thinking about the activities the person uses their vision for or what it is they would like to be able to do. This does not need to be restricted to just reading but should include other activities such as looking at photos, arts and crafts or the use of smartphones or tablets.

Summary

Regardless of whether someone’s sight loss occurred from birth or was acquired later in their life, the services listed on this page can still be incredibly beneficial for people with learning disabilities. It is also important to remember that most people will still need eye care even if they are Registered. There is still a risk of additional sight loss from another eye condition and a person with learning disabilities may not be able to recognise this.

Useful links

Visionary - local societies for the blind

RNIB has further information about registration and how this may benefit someone

Download Sight loss - a detailed guide about sight loss