If you have a permanent visual impairment you may be eligible to be registered as sight impaired. Being registered often makes it easier to get practical help and may qualify you for certain benefits. Registration is voluntary. There are two categories of registration: sight impaired and severely sight impaired. The loss of sight in one eye does not generally qualify you for registration.

Why should I register?

If you are registered as either sight impaired or severely sight impaired you may be entitled to:

  • free NHS sight tests
  • railcards and other rail or travel concessions
  • local travel schemes
  • free directory enquiry services from BT
  • protection under the Equality Act
  • free postage on items marked ‘articles for the blind’
  • free assessment by social services.

In addition, if you are registered as severely sight impaired you may be entitled to:

  • blind person’s personal income tax allowance • a reduction of 50% on the television licence fee (N.B. everyone over 75 gets a free television licence)
  • car parking concessions such as the blue badge scheme. You may also be entitled to get:
  • free loan of radios, cassette players and TV sound receivers
  • help with telephone installation charges and line rental
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Attendance Allowance • Carer’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Tax credits • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax disability reduction
  • Universal Credit • Pension Credit
  • free ticket for a guide at theatres, galleries and tourist attractions.

How do I register?

To be registered, you must have your sight examined by a hospital consultant ophthalmologist (eye specialist). This can be arranged by your GP or optometrist if you are not already a patient of a consultant.

How is my category decided?

The ophthalmologist will measure your visual acuity (how good you are at seeing detail) and your field of vision (how much you can see from the side of your eye while looking straight ahead). They will look at the combined results to decide whether you’re eligible to be registered, and at which level. If the ophthalmologist thinks that you are suitable for registration he or she will complete a Certificate of Visual Impairment (CVI) form (a CVIW form in Wales, BP1 form in Scotland) with you. This form records information about your condition and certifies you as either sight impaired or severely sight impaired. The register is confidential and held locally, so if you move you will need to re-register.

Copies of the CVI will be sent to adult social services and your GP. Your hospital will provide you with a copy as well. A member of your local sensory services team will then contact you to discuss your particular needs and what services and benefits may be available. With your permission, a copy of the CVI will be sent to The Royal College of Ophthalmologists Certifications Office at Moorfields Eye Hospital, where information about eye conditions is collected and used to help to improve eye care and services in the future.

Other ways to get help

You can request an assessment from adult services using the Low Vision Leaflet (LVL). This notifies them that you are having difficulties as a result of your sight loss. To access the form, call your local authority adult services department or visit their website.

Forms are also available from your optician. This is a self-referral leaflet but you can ask eye clinic staff or your optician to complete a request on your behalf. With your consent they’ll use the Referral of Vision Impaired Patient (RVI) form. The forms give information about your vision and the types of things that you might like help with, for example cooking or getting about safely.

The form can be used if your sight is not poor enough to qualify you for registration, or if you don’t want to be registered, but you do want advice and information that might help you. The types and level of services available differ according to where you live. Some people who are not eligible to be registered as sight impaired may still qualify to be registered as disabled. Your local sight loss charity may be able to offer you a benefits review. Citizens Advice and Age UK offer a similar service.

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