Comm Eye Health Vol. 26 No. 81 2013 pp 07. Published online 23 May 2013.

Supporting people with visual impairment

With thanks to

Clare Gilbert

Co-director, International Centre for Eye Health, and the

authors of Disability Inclusive Practices in Eye Health.

CBM 2011.

Related content


Here are some techniques to keep in mind when meeting with a patient with visual impairment.

  • Introduce yourself and say your name
  • Use the name of the person so they know you are talking to them.
  • Face the person and talk to them, not the person accompanying them.
  • Be specific in giving directions: say ‘left’ or ‘right’ rather than pointing.
  • Identify the room you are in if the person cannot see well enough to recognise their surroundings.
  • Identify and name any other people in the room or involved in the consultation.
  • Read out written information, including rights to treatment and associated risks.
  • If the person moves to a new location, tell them who is in the room and offer to describe the environment.
  • Do not leave the person alone in the centre of a room. Make sure they can touch a table, chair, or wall to maintain orientation to their surroundings.

Children’s education

There are different models for educating children with visual and other impairments, which include educating children in ‘special schools’ (schools for children with specific impairments), and educating children in a mainstream school (known as ‘inclusive education’). The comments below apply equally well to any model, and eye care workers may wish to spend time talking to parents about them.

  • All children have a right to education.
  • Education will give a child more opportunities in the future.
  • It is important that children with disabilities spend time with their peers to make friends, gain independence, and develop a sense of belonging in the community.
  • Children with low vision will need regular and ongoing assessment to check their refraction and whether they are using the most appropriate low vision interventions. The interventions may need to change as the child grows older, and as his or her educational demands increase. For example, the font size in school books will get smaller as the child progresses through primary school.