Registering as blind

The benefits of registering as blind or partially sighted

Please note that the information on this page is for guidance only and is not an authoritative statement of the law.

Introduction

If you are losing or have lost your sight, you might start finding things difficult that you previously took for granted. There is, however, help available to support you in getting your life back together. If you register your sight loss with your local authority, it will be easier to access some of the help and support you need. There are two levels of registration, known as:

  • severely sight impaired/blind and
  • sight impaired/partially sighted

You’ll be entitled to concessions such as discounts on bus and rail travel, as well as possible reductions in your council tax. You may also be able to claim welfare benefits, including Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance. There is more information about claiming these benefits later in the booklet.

It is important to note, however, that loss of sight in only one eye does not qualify you for registration unless you have poor sight in your other eye.

You can also get help by calling your social services department. Or you can obtain a Low Vision Leaflet or a Referral of Vision Impairment from your eye hospital or clinic.

How do I get support before I start the registration process?

Before you even begin the registration process, you can get help from your high street optometrist (optician) or a local hospital eye service.

How do I register?

In order to be registered as severely sight impaired/blind or sight impaired/partially sighted you need to visit an eye specialist, called a consultant ophthalmologist. They will conduct an eye test and complete a Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI). In Scotland, this is a BP1 form.

In your eye test, the consultant ophthalmologist will measure how good you are at seeing detail (your visual acuity) and how much you can see from the side of your eye when you’re looking straight ahead (your field of vision). They use a combination of your visual acuity and your field of vision to judge whether you’re eligible to be registered, and at which level.

Your visual acuity is measured by reading down an eye chart while wearing any glasses or contact lenses that you may need. This is known as a Snellen scale.

Your field of vision is measured by a field of vision test. The consultant may do other tests to check your eye health, such as using drops to dilate your pupils. This could blur your vision for a few hours afterwards. You may want to have someone with you to help you home after the appointment.

Your Certificate of Vision Impairment includes the results from your eye test, as well as information about your circumstances and your preferred format for correspondence.

Results of your eye test

If you have good visual acuity then usually you will have had to have lost a large part of your visual field to be registered as severely sight impaired/blind or sight impaired/partially sighted. If you have all your visual field you will usually have to have a very poor visual acuity to be registered as severely sight impaired/blind or sight impaired/partially sighted.

Being registered as severely sight impaired or blind does not necessarily mean you are totally without sight or will lose all your sight in the future.

If your sight is affecting your ability to drive safely, you need to inform DVLA on 0300 790 6806.

If you’re unhappy with the outcome of the examination, you can ask your GP to refer you to a second specialist.

What is the register?

Each local authority keeps a register of severely sight impaired/blind or sight impaired/partially sighted people living in the area. The register is held by the social services department (social work department in Scotland) or its representatives. It helps your local council provide you with the best services it can. The register is confidential so your details cannot be shared.

You have to register to be able to get the concessions mentioned below, although you don’t need to register just to get information and support from your local authority.

Once you have sent a copy of your Certificate of Vision Impairment to your local social services department, they should contact you within 48 hours. If you choose to be registered straight away then your date of your registration should be the date the consultant signed the certificate.

Alternatively you can take more time to think about. If you are having problems because of your sight you can ask your local social services department for help even if you’re not registered. This is because there can be delays between certification and registration.

The benefits of registration

If you’re registered severely sight impaired/blind you are entitled to the following concessions.

Blind person’s personal income tax allowance

This allowance is in addition to the usual personal tax allowances. It can be transferred to your husband, wife or your civil partner, in part or whole if you do not have enough taxable income to use it.

Contact your local tax office or call Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ priority telephone line on 0845 366 7887 about claiming the allowance. Further information is available at their website hmrc.gov.uk or from the office that deals with your tax affairs.

Reduction of 50 per cent on the television licence fee

This applies if a registered severely sight impaired/blind adult or child lives in the household. Call the TV licence helpline on 0300 790 6071.

Car parking concessions: the Blue Badge Scheme

The Blue Badge Scheme is administered by local authorities and can be used in any vehicle in which you are travelling. Contact your local authority’s social services department.

Free postage on items marked “articles for the blind”

These can include books, papers and letters in large print (minimum font size 16pt), braille items, computer disks and CDs which have been prepared for blind or partially sighted people.

You may also be entitled to:

  • free permanent loan of radios, cd radio cassette players. Contact your local authority’s social services and ask about the British Wireless for the Blind Fund
  • help with telephone installation charges and line rental. Contact your local council’s social services to ask if you qualify.

If you’re registered severely sight impaired/blind or sight impaired/partially sighted you are entitled to the following:

Free NHS sight test

Tell the optician before the sight test. The test is also free for anyone aged 60 or over.

Other NHS costs

If you need “complex lenses” you can get a voucher towards the cost of glasses (check with your optician whether you need complex lenses). If you’re unable to leave your home without the help of another person, you may be able to get free medical prescriptions. You can also get help with NHS costs, including vouchers towards the costs of glasses and free NHS sight tests, if you receive income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, guarantee Pension Credit or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. If you have a low income or modest savings, you will need to complete an HC1 form. Call the NHS health costs advice line on 0845 850 1166.

Discounted rail travel

The Disabled Person’s Railcard generally gives at least one third off the price of certain rail tickets for the cardholder, and an accompanying adult, if applicable.

Even if you do not have this railcard, you can get certain other discounts on rail travel, including season tickets. However, to qualify you must be travelling with another person and have a document confirming your disability when you buy your ticket.

Call 0845 605 0525 or visit their website at disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk for further details.

Local bus schemes

You will be able to get a bus pass that gives you free concessionary travel throughout the country. Contact your local authority for further details.

Exemption from BT Directory Enquiry charges

Ring 195 and ask for a PIN number. You may still use the free service if BT is not your telephone company.

Information in accessible formats

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) is legislation which aims to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities. It automatically applies to people who are registered as blind or partially sighted.

The DDA covers different sorts of situations: employment, goods, services and facilities, transport, education and premises. For example, the DDA says that companies must make reasonable adjustments. This can mean providing information in accessible formats, such as large print, if requested. If you meet the DDA’s definition of a disabled person then the DDA will apply to you. This means it is easier for you to show that DDA applies to you.

Leisure concessions

Concessions are available to people with disabilities, or people receiving certain benefits, for various leisure and recreational activities. For example, a free ticket for a person accompanying you to participating cinemas if you are registered severely sight impaired/blind or you are claiming the Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance; and reduced price entry to museums and exhibitions as well as theatres and concert halls. You can call the venue for details of available.

Council tax disability reduction

You may get a reduction to your council tax bill if you have a room set aside to meet needs related to your disability. For example, if you need to use and store equipment for your communication needs, such as a CCTV. The reduction is not automatic. Ask your local council tax office for details.

Welfare benefits

People who are registered as severely sight impaired/blind or sight impaired/partially sighted are not automatically entitled to any welfare benefits and there’s no special benefit or pension for them. We have listed benefits that blind and partially sighted people – subject to age and other circumstances – may be able to claim.

Although we cannot guarantee your entitlement, we recommend that you apply for the appropriate benefit. If you don’t claim, you won’t get anything!

Attendance Allowance

If you’re aged 65 or over you can claim Attendance Allowance (AA). It is for people who require help during the day or night (or both). If you need watching over to avoid getting into danger you can also qualify.

Disability Living Allowance

If you’re under 65, you can claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA). This has two components. You may get the care component if you need help or supervision. You can get the mobility component if you need guidance to get about in unfamiliar places.

For an AA or DLA claim form, call the Department for Work and Pensions’ Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 88 22 00.

Please note: AA and DLA are ignored as income for all the benefits listed in this section. An award may make it more likely that you will qualify for other benefits.

Carer’s Allowance

If someone, such as your partner, a relative or friend spends time looking after you, they may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance, or an increase in other benefits. You can be a carer even if you are blind or partially sighted. The person being cared for must be getting either AA or the middle or highest rate care component of DLA. Call the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0845 608 4321.

Important! Before you or your carer claim Carer’s Allowance, check that you, or the person you are caring for, will not lose money.

Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) can be claimed if you are unemployed and have “limited capability for work”. To claim, call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688. If you’re reclaiming benefits after a period in employment or training you may be able to reclaim your previous benefits instead. Please seek advice if in doubt.

Tax Credits

Tax Credits are income-based benefits that can be paid on top of other income including wages and benefits. Claims are based on gross taxable income for the tax year prior to the year of application. They are administered by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

You may get Working Tax Credit to top-up your wages if you work at least 16 hours a week. It includes a disability element if you are registered severely sight impaired/blind or sight impaired/partially sighted or you get DLA or another qualifying benefit.

Most families should qualify for some Child Tax Credit (CTC). If you have a child who is registered blind or gets Disability Living Allowance, your CTC will include the disabled child element.

Ring the Tax Credits Helpline on 0845 300 3900.

Pension Credit

If you are aged 60 or over you can get the guarantee Pension Credit if your weekly income is low enough. If you are aged 65 or over you may get the savings Pension Credit if you have modest retirement income or savings.

Between 6 April 2010 and 5 April 2020, the age from which you may get Pension Credit will change. It will gradually rise in line with the increase in the State Pension age for women from 60 to 65 years.

Contact our Helpline to check if you qualify on 0303 123 9999. To make a claim, call The Pension Service on 0800 99 1234.

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit

These are income based benefits to help people on a low income with their rent and council tax. You can contact your local council for more information.

Exemption from “non-dependants” deductions

A non-dependant is another adult living in your home (who is not your partner). Some benefits are reduced if you have a non-dependant. No deductions will be applied if you are registered severely sight impaired/blind or get AA or the care component of DLA.

Can I get any other help along the way?

Your local authority has specially trained staff, usually called Rehabilitation Workers or Rehabilitation Officers, who can support you in a range of activities. They might be able to help you get about safely, as well as in your daily life, such as cooking and leisure activities. They can also refer you to other services you might need.

Rehabilitation workers are part of a special team working with people with a sight or hearing loss and visit our resource centres. Not every local council employs rehabilitation workers but your local authority should be able to “buy in” any service you need, as agreed in your needs assessment.

If you later move to a different area, you should call your new local authority’s social services department to let them know that you are registered. Your new local authority will then be able to arrange for your registration details to be transferred.

Most local authorities offer a registration card which can help to prove entitlement to certain concessions. A registration card in England should follow the guidelines laid down by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. You might find such a card helpful to back up requests for assistance when you’re out, particularly if you do not use a white cane or guide dog and your sight problem may not be obvious to other people.