Living With Poor Vision

Visual problems are common in Neuromyelitis Optica Spectum Disorder and are mainly due to inflammation affecting the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the cable transmitting electrical signals from the light sensitive inner layer at the back of the eye (called the retina) toward the vision area of the brain.

Registering as sight impaired

If your eye specialist tells you that you can be registered as sight impaired or severely sight impaired, this does not necessarily mean you will lose all your sight; it means your eyesight has fallen below certain levels. Nine out of ten people registered as severely sight impaired have some useful sight.

Being registered means your name will be held on a confidential list by your local social care services.

You do not have to register if you do not want to, but registration can entitle you to a range of services including:

♦  An assessment of your practical needs in the home to find out what help you might need with everyday tasks

♦  Access to a resource centre to try out gadgets, provision of special equipment or home adaptations

♦  Social care services have a duty to assess what help people with sight problems need.

Being certified by an Ophthalmologist as sight impaired is voluntary and may also open the door to a number of benefits and allowances: Disability Living Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, Disabled Person’s Railcard and Local travel schemes.

If severely sight impaired, other benefits could also include: Blind person’s personal income tax allowance, Free NHS sight test, Television licence fee halved, Blue Badge Scheme Car parking concessions, free postage on items marked Articles for the Blind, Help with telephone installation charges and line rental.

Aids and Adaptations

Whether sight problems come and go, or are more permanent, there are aids and adaptations that can help.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is one of the best sources of information for people with sight problems. Their publications contain practical ideas and advice for people with low vision.

Aids and adaptations might include:

♦   Magnifying screens – they come in different sizes, some as small as a credit card. They may help with shopping and reading labels and small print. There are larger ones that are more suitable for reading books or newspapers.

♦   CCTVs – not to be confused with the cameras you get on the street, these are video magnifiers. You put a sheet of text under the camera (which is like a computer mouse that you use to move across the text) and they magnify it on to a TV screen or screen of their own.

♦   Pocket viewer – looks like a very large-screen mobile phone and makes everything seven times larger.

♦   Computer screen magnifiers or screen reader software – will convert the text and images on a computer screen into speech or Braille. Go to the AbilityNet website for more information.

♦   Big Button telephones

♦   Home protection – voice contact with a monitoring centre who can verify the identity of the caller if you are unable to read identification

♦   Better lighting in the home

♦   Audio Description (AD) – an additional television commentary that helps people with a sight problem to picture the on-screen action, body language and facial expressions. The RNIB has more information on how to get this free service.

♦   The Talking Book Service provides over 15,000 audio books, with access to online reference services such as newspapers, dictionaries and reference books.


Low vision services
For patients with visual impairment – vision not improved with spectacles or contact lenses. A Low Vision Clinic service is available to maximise use of remaining vision by making assessments and suggesting adjustments and recommending low vision aids. You do not have to be registered as visually impaired to access this service. Available at your local eye hospital.


Non-optical low vision aids
Conversion Systems, non-optical electronic devices include talking watches, talking calculators and speech and Braille conversion systems are available. Screen readers are programs available for audio of website page text for computer users and the RNIB can supply large letter key stickers for keyboard. Advice may be obtained from PC accessibility services to tailor the PC to your personal requirements.

Useful websites 

RNIB provides advice on home, work and other practical issues as well as further links including the National Library Service RNIB Helpline 0303 123 9999

Action for Blind People provides free and confidential support in adapting to sight loss. 0800 915 4666

Large print books

o BBC Children’s and adults books and tapes: 01225878164

o Magna large print books: 01729 840225

o UlverscroftBooks and tapes: 0116 2364325


Audio Books: 01296 432339,


Technology Association of Visually impaired People: 02036 376070


Royal National College for the Blind is the college of further education and training for blind or partially sighted adults (over 16). 01432 265 725/01432 376 621 provides information on benefits, tax credits and local council services for sight impaired people and relatives.

Your help

If you have any ideas or suggestions that have been helpful please let us know as it may help others.