Last month, I told you about my recent conversation with Lee Huffman, editor-in-chief of AccessWorld, an online magazine published by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) that covers technology for people who are blind or visually impaired. He described how powerful portable technologies like smartphone apps are expanding access to many activities for blind and VI people.
I asked Huffman if he thinks most eyecare professionals, apart from low vision specialists, are aware of these and other new assistive technologies. His response was unequivocally “no.”
“I believe there’s a lot of education that needs to be done for traditional ophthalmologists and optometrists who serve the general population,” he replied. “Often, when they have a patient with, say, macular degeneration, and glasses and contact lenses are no longer helping, and they’ve done everything they can do for that patient, there is very seldom a referral to a low vision specialist. That’s a big disconnect.”
As Huffman points out, low vision specialists can teach patients about corrective devices, low vision access technology and how to better use the remaining vision they have to perform everyday tasks. But without a referral from their primary eye doctor, patients may never know to even ask about these options.
“Of course, some doctors do make referrals, but it’s something AFB would like to encourage,” he adds.
An easy way for ECPs to find resources for blind and vision impaired people is to use the directory of services on AFB’s website, afb.org. The easy to use directory can be searched by state for a wide range of services, including low vision specialists, nonprofit organizations, private agencies, and federal and state agencies.
Another valuable low vision resource is available through Prevent Blindness at lowvision.preventblindness.org.
If you have low vision patients but don’t specialize in this type of care, be sure to read, or re-read some recent 20/20 articles on the subject. They include “Low Vision Prescription Eyewear,” by Richard Shuldiner, OD, FAAO; “An Introduction to Low Vision” by Kara Pasner, OD, MS; and “It’s High Time for Low Vision” by David Armstrong, OD.
• Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology