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Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2003 Jul;23(4):321-7.

Barriers to accessing low vision services.

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Centre for Eye Research Australia, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Melbourne, East Melbourne, Australia.



To investigate barriers to accessing low vision services in Australia.


Adults with a vision impairment (<6/12 in the better eye and/or significant visual field defect), who were current patients at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH), were interviewed. The questions investigated self-perceived vision difficulties, duration of vision loss and satisfaction with vision and also examined issues of awareness of low vision services and referral to services. Focus groups were also conducted with vision impaired (<6/12 in the better eye) patients from the RVEEH, listeners of the Radio for the Print Handicapped and peer workers at Vision Australia Foundation. The discussions were recorded and transcribed.


The questionnaire revealed that referral to low vision services was associated with a greater degree of vision loss (p = 0.002) and a greater self-perception of low vision (p = 0.005) but that referral was not associated with satisfaction (p = 0.144) or difficulties related to vision (p = 0.169). Participants with mild and moderate vision impairment each reported similar levels of difficulties with daily activities and satisfaction with their vision (p > 0.05). However, there was a significant difference in the level of difficulties experienced with daily activities between those with mild-moderate and severe vision impairment (p < 0.05). The participants of the focus groups identified barriers to accessing low vision services related to awareness of services among the general public and eye care professionals, understanding of low vision and the services available, acceptance of low vision, the referral process, and transport.


In addition to the expected difficulties with lack of awareness of services by people with low vision, many people do not understand what the services provide and do not identify themselves as having low vision. Knowledge of these barriers, from the perspective of people with low vision, can now be used to guide the development and content of future health-promotion campaigns.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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