There are an estimated 6,500 people in the Borough of Bournemouth with significant sight loss. Some people are born with a visual impairment, while others gradually lose their sight in later life. Sight loss can happen at any age!
In late 2018 a group of Arts University students produced a short video with one of our severely sight impaired members. Titled ‘It’s just a line’, it is described as ‘a short poetic documentary about how someone without sight interprets abstract concepts’. You can watch it here.
Some of the more common causes of sight loss include:
Age-related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of the eye, called the macula. AMD causes problems with central vision, but does not lead to total loss of sight and is not painful. AMD may make central vision distorted or blurry.
For more information: Macular Society
Cataracts are a very common eye condition. Ageing causes the lens inside the eye to gradually change and become less transparent. A lens that has turned misty or cloudy is said to have a cataract. A straightforward operation can usually remove the misty lens and replace it with an artificial lens.
For more information: NHS page on Cataracts
Charles Bonnet Syndrome
Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) is a common condition among people who have lost their sight, causing them to see things that are not really there, known as visual hallucinations. CBS can be distressing, but the hallucinations are usually not permanent. CBS can happen at any age, but is more common in older people.
For more information: RNIB Page on Charles Bonnet Syndrome
The most serious complication of diabetes for the eye is the development of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes affects the tiny blood vessels of the eye. If they become blocked or leak, the retina and possibly vision will be affected. 40% of people with Type 1 diabetes and 20% with Type 2 diabetes will develop some sort of diabetic retinopathy.
For more information: Diabetes UK
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions which cause optic nerve damage and can affect vision. This damage may be caused by raised eye pressure. In most cases, high pressure and weakness in the optic nerve are both involved to a varying extent. (Eye pressure is not connected to blood pressure).
For more information: Glaucoma Association
Nystagmus is a continuous uncontrolled to and fro movement of the eyes. The movements may be in any direction. This means that the eyes will look like they are moving from side to side, up and down or even in circles. Most people with Nystagmus have reduced vision.
For more information: Nystagmus Network
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)
Retinitis pigmentosa is the name given to a diverse group of inherited eye disorders, affecting the retina. RP causes permanent changes to vision including difficulties in dim light or the dark and the loss of side or peripheral vision. With RP, sight loss is gradual but progresses over a period of many years.
For more information: Retinitis Pigmentosa
Registering sight loss with the local Council is voluntary. Help is available whether you decide to follow the registration process or not. Only a consultant ophthalmologist can decide whether you are eligible to be registered – you cannot refer yourself to be registered.
What is registration?
“Registration” simply means being on your local Council’s register of people who are either severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted). The register is confidential, so your details won’t be shared.
The Registration process
If you are having problems with your sight, visit a high street optician or your GP for an initial check-up. If necessary, they will then refer you to an eye clinic, where an eye specialist (an ophthalmologist) will examine your eyes and determine if a certificate can be issued.
Your ophthalmologist will then complete a Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI). It will be indicated on your certificate if you qualify as severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted).
The eye specialist sends copies of the certificate to you, your GP and your local Sight and Hearing team. At this point, you are still not registered.
Registration with your local Council
After receiving a copy of your certificate, your local Sight and Hearing team should contact you to ask if you wish to be included on its confidential register of blind and partially sighted people. If you choose not to be registered, you can still get support to help you remain independent.
The Sight and Hearing team will contact you to discuss carrying out a Community Care Assessment to determine what help and advice you may need with everyday tasks such as cleaning, cooking or with transport.
Benefits of Registration
The level of benefits available is dependent on the level of impairment and include:
Sight impaired (partially sighted)
- Free eyesight test, including low vision assessment and loan of magnifiers
- Exemption from paying VAT on products specifically designed for disabled people
- Free postage – “Articles for the Blind”
- Free all day bus travel
- Rail travel concessions
- Exemption from BT directory enquiry charges
- Free membership of Bournemouth Blind Society
- Possible loan of radio/cd player from the British Wireless for the Blind Fund, administered locally by Bournemouth Blind Society
Severely sight impaired (Blind)
All of the above benefits, plus
- Additional personal Income Tax Allowance
- 50% reduction of TV licence for people under 75 years of age
- Disabled person’s parking concession – the blue badge scheme
Although being registered does not automatically entitle you to any particular welfare benefits, it often makes it easier for you to claim some of them. Your registration confirms your sight loss and helps as evidence in your claim.