Being diagnosed with sight loss or told you have an eye condition that could have an impact your vision can be an anxious and frightening time. Sight Life is here to give you the advice and support that you need so you can still enjoy a rich and fulfilling life.
In the UK, there are almost two million people living with sight loss; around 360,000 of those are registered as blind or partially sighted. It can be difficult to come to terms with being told you have a visual impairment that is not treatable. Some people go through a process similar to bereavement; they experience a range of emotions including shock, anger, and denial, before eventually coming to accept their condition.
If you have been recently diagnosed with sight loss (as sight-impaired, severely sight-impaired, partially sighted or blind), we are here for you. We will listen to you, and offer you information, advice and support tailored to your particular needs. From practical advice like staying in work and managing your money to staying fit, active and part of the community. We can also refer you to other organisations which can help you to stay safe in your own home and travel safely. RNIB provides an easy to read guide to coping with sight loss which you may find helpful. For information on sources of emotional support, click here.
What about registration?
One of the questions Sight Life staff are often asked when meeting people who have sight problems is about whether they should register as blind or partially sighted. People diagnosed with sight loss sometimes see the registration process as a daunting process. “Being registered” as sight impaired seems to give them very few benefits. The opposite is true. The process is straightforward and almost always makes life a lot easier. Certification and registration is a two stage process. If you have a sight problem and a hospital eye doctor (ophthalmologist) considers your sight meets the criteria then they might offer you a CVI (Certificate of Vision Impairment).
You can also take the initiative and ask your ophthalmologist to give you a CVI. Government guidelines state that you can be certified as sight impaired if you are “substantially and permanently handicapped by defective vision caused by congenital defect or illness or injury”. Once certified you can go on a register (list) kept by your local authority. The register tells local authorities how many people with a sight problem live in their area so they can plan services accordingly. The more people are registered, the more money the local authority should make more money available to provide services to them such as those offered by Sight Life and rehab workers.
What’s the point of registration?
RNIB’s website lists the benefits of registration. At first glance, the benefits may not seem that great. They include free NHS sight tests, being able to apply for a disabled person’s railcard and possibly reduced ticket prices in cinemas and other venues. However, “are you registered?” is often the first question the Department for Work and Pensions asks if you’re applying for welfare benefits or other support. Registration opens lots of other doors too, such as making it easier to get help with education and apply for support from the Access to Work Scheme.
Often just having that piece of paper comes in handy in ways you might not imagine – especially if you have trouble convincing people you really can’t see that well. Being registered can, for example, mean you get a better seat at a football match; that a sighted friend or relative can accompany you free of charge as a guide to a concert; or that you can get priority help with online supermarket deliveries or when dealing with gas, electricity and other companies supplying everyday services.
Ophthalmologists sometimes hesitate about issuing CVIs, possibly because they think it might label or stigmatise someone who still has quite a lot of vision. However, nearly everyone we know who has taken the decision to get a CVI has been glad they did so. In fact, most say they wonder why they didn’t do it sooner. Moreover, you don’t have to tell anyone that you are registered unless you choose to do so. Yes, it is a good idea in some circumstances, like telling an existing or prospective employer. But if you’re retired (like our Chair, John Sanders) there are few if any downsides to getting a CVI and being registered.
If you would like to talk to us about registration, or any other aspect of sight loss, please contact us. Call us on 029 2039 8900, email us or by visit us at Jones Court, Womanby Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BR. You don’t need to make an appointment, but we we’re a small team so it’s best to call and arrange a time so we can make sure we have someone available to talk with you.