Low Vision Resource Guide


This guidebook was made possible due to the generosity of the Aid Association for the Blind of the District of Columbia.

Reviewed by the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington Medical Committee.

VISION LOSS IS A SPECTRUM: When we hear the word “blind,” many think of a world with no light at all. However, this is only the case for a small portion of persons who are legally blind. It is important to know, and inform others, that vision loss is a spectrum.

Most Americans either have no visual impairment or some vision loss correctable with prescription eye care or surgery, like cataract or LASIK. However, many live with uncorrectable poor eyesight, even with surgery or prescription eyewear.

Low vision, vision impairment and legal blindness affect millions of Americans. Low vision means our best corrected vision (after exhausting prescription eyewear, surgery, and medicine) has diminished to the point where it interferes with daily activities. Many may live with low vision without ever understanding what it is and what might be helpful.

Legal blindness is a best corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or worse, or a visual field of 20° or less. There are more significant levels of vision loss: 20/400, 20/1000, and light or motion (such as hand motions) only detection. Finally, there is total blindness, where there is no light perception. Very few legally blind persons are totally blind. As we see, a very small proportion of visually impaired and blind individuals are blind to the level many in the general population believe to be “blind.”

This guidebook is designed to be a resource for everyone on the vision loss spectrum, including friends and family of those with vision loss. This guidebook was designed for the greater Washington, or D.C. metropolitan region. While many of the resources and services are available nationally, and state agencies are available where you live, we have focused our content for the community we serve.

Where to Start?: Hundreds of resources and services are available. From state agencies, to reading resources, to rehabilitation programs, the greater Washington D.C. region is full of resources and services for the visually impaired community.

The large number may create confusion and fear at first. We have broken down resources and services by category, and the region they serve. This allows one to identify what they may be looking to address (e.g., reading the newspaper), and what region they live in (e.g., District of Columbia). In addition, many national and regional items will be helpful as well. We also recommend that, along with this guidebook, you consider the following steps that can ease the vision loss transition:

  • Contact the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington (POB) Low Vision Learning Center (301-951-4444) and ask for a free appointment at the Center. A Vision Rehabilitation Resource Specialist will guide you through available resources and connect you with the best resources for you. At the Center, you can also see and try various aids and devices available. In addition, if you do not want an appointment and only have a few questions, this contact serves as a hotline for those looking for low vision resources and services.
  • Ask your eye doctor about low vision rehabilitation. Low vision rehabilitation involves working with a low vision specialist (optometrist or ophthalmologist) to identify your unique goals and developing a plan to achieve these goals. This may include retaining/obtaining employment, travel training, or just reading the newspaper. These doctors completed specialized training and have the knowledge to optimize remaining sight and teach compensatory strategies for everyday activities.
  • Join a support group! Call the POB Low Vision Learning Center (301-951-4444) to find support groups in your area and sign up for our newsletter. A local resource and support group is an opportunity to hear from peers and experts, learn about resources and services, or learn unique adaptations persons with vision loss make to still complete the activities they please. Dozens are located in the greater Washington D.C. area, and many continue to form.

NOTE: The Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington® does not make any endorsements or other guarantees pertaining to these listed resources. This guide is for educational and informational use. Information found through the resources is solely the responsibility of those individuals or organizations distributing it. Any information in this booklet should be discussed with your eye care and healthcare professionals.

This guide is not meant to provide medical or legal information or advice. If you have a medical or legal question, you should ask your doctor or attorney.