Being registered sight impaired or Severely Sight Impaired

The Certificate of Visual Impairment (CVI) has three main functions:

  • It qualifies you to be registered with your local council as sight impaired (partially sighted) or severely sight impaired (blind).
  • It lets your local council know about your sight loss. They have a duty to contact you to offer registration and to see if you need help with day-to-day tasks.
  • The CVI records important information about the cause of your sight loss. It helps the NHS to identify any trends in certain eye conditions and helps with planning services.

What is registration?

Registration is not just your initial certification. It is carried out by your local council rather than the hospital. The term registration is often used as shorthand to cover the whole process but there are two distinct and separate stages. You are only registered after you have completed the second stage.

Step 1 – Certification takes place at the eye clinic

When an Ophthalmologist considers your sight loss to have reached a certain threshold, there are two categories, namely “sight impaired” (also referred to on the form as partially sighted) and “severely sight impaired” (also referred to on the form as blind).

Very few people placed in the “severely sight impaired” category ever lose their sight completely and many retain some vision.

When the Ophthalmologist) signs the form, they are “certifying that you are eligible to be registered” with your council. You will also be asked to sign the form. The Eye Doctor (Ophthalmologist) may tell you that they are registering you; however, they are only completing the CVI, the first stage of the registration process.

Step 2 – Registration takes place in the community

When your borough receives a copy of your CVI, someone should contact you and invite you to register as “sight impaired” or “severely sight impaired”. Your borough may have already been in touch with you, or they may contact you at some point in the future. One of the things they will do is to talk about the purpose and benefits of registration. It is up to you to decide if you want to be registered. If you want more time to think about it, then you can also ask to be registered at a later time. It doesn’t cost anything and there are benefits to being registered and most people decide to be registered.

Your registration date is the date on which the CVI is signed by your Eye Doctor (Ophthalmologist) and the same date is taken as the date of registration by your council. If you decide not to be registered but change your mind at a later date you should have your registration status backdated to the date the CVI was signed. The date of registration is important as it may affect your entitlement to certain welfare benefits.

Help that you can expect from your local council

Registering your sight loss

Every council must hold a register of people living in their area who are sight impaired and severely sight impaired. Your council will receive a copy of your CVI, and should make contact within two weeks, to talk to you about registration and the benefits of being registered. Your council may also have an agreement with another organisation to contact you on their behalf about registration. So, don’t worry if it’s someone else that contacts you on your council’s behalf. At this point your assessment should start. Under the Care Act 2014, your council has a duty to assess what support you may need, and you are entitled to an assessment whether or not you choose to be registered.

How vision rehabilitation support can help you

Vision rehabilitation is support that your council must provide to help you to be as independent as possible. Your council should not charge you for this and should make it available for as long as you need it, to help you achieve your personal goals that have been identified following an assessment. You don’t have to be registered to receive vision rehabilitation support.

Types of support you may receive include:

  • Understanding your eye condition, learning what it means for you and your family, and explaining the certification and registration process.
  • Coming to terms with your condition and understanding the changes and adjustments you may need to live your life.
  • Looking after yourself and learning new ways of completing tasks.
  • Moving around your home safely and looking after it. This includes assessing your mobility needs, for example, measures to reduce the risks of falls, the use of stairs, and advice on appropriate equipment and mobility aids.
  • If needed, time can be arranged for you to receive one to one training.
  • Assessing your needs for daily living skills training, for example, any support or training you need to prepare meals, make drinks, use the oven and hob, as well as ironing and shopping.
  • If needed, referring you to a low vision service, where someone will assess your needs and recommend the use of aids such as magnifiers.
  • Reviewing the lighting in your home to see if any improvements can be made.
  • Getting out and about, travelling confidently and safely, and using public transport.
  • You may be referred for a benefits check, for example, with regard to claiming Personal Independence Payments or Attendance Allowance, and concessions such as blue badge and travel passes.
  • Looking at your communication needs and how you keep in touch with others, such as reading, writing, telling the time, and using smartphones, tablets and speech software.
  • Ensuring you have access to training, education and learning opportunities.
  • Signposting you to a Disability Employment Adviser or ways to volunteer.
  • Providing information on social activities that match your interests, for example, community groups, local sight loss charities and societies.
  • Providing information on talking books and newspapers.
  • Looking at your emotional needs for example, counselling, telephone support, peer support, courses or groups.
  • Putting you in contact with other parts of your council, the local low vision service and other organisations in the local community where you can get help

The benefits you may be entitled to

There’s a range of benefits that are available for people with sight loss. Different benefits are available, depending if you are:

  • Registered as sight impaired or severely sight impaired.
  • Registered as severely sight impaired.
  • Not registered but have sight loss.

Financial and welfare benefits

If you have sight loss, and/or a long-term health condition or disability that affects your ability to live independently, you could apply for:

  • Personal Independence Payments (if you are aged 16 to 64).
  • Attendance Allowance (if you are 65 and over and have care needs).
  • Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance (if you are unable to work).
  • Working Tax Credit (if you are in work).

If you’re registered as severely sight impaired, you are eligible for the Blind Person’s Tax Allowance. This means that you can earn more money before you start to pay income tax. For further information, contact your local tax office or visit

www.gov.uk/blind-persons-allowance/overview

 There are also benefits available for carers, such as carers allowance. Welfare benefits are regularly reviewed and sometimes changed. We advise you to ask for more information to check if you, or your carers are eligible. There are organisations that can help you to do this. Contact RNIB’s Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Free travel in London

If you’re registered as severely sight impaired, sight impaired, or have a CVI, then you are entitled to a Freedom Pass. This will give you free travel on public transport such as buses, the tube, and trams. You can use your pass on most journeys across London, but there may be certain times limitations on when you can use your pass. he London Taxicard Scheme provides subsidised taxis for disabled people who find it difficult to use public transport. Ask your council about the available travel concessions in your area.

Blue Badges

A Blue Badge may enable the person driving you to park in a disabled bay, on the street, or in car parks. If you’re registered as severely sight impaired, then you qualify automatically. If you’re sight impaired, you will need to be assessed. In many places, there will be no charge to park. To apply contact your council.

Disabled Person’s Railcard

If you’re registered as severely sight impaired or sight impaired, you’re entitled to a Disabled Person’s Railcard that enables you, and another person travelling with you, to get 1/3 off ticket prices. You do have to pay for a disabled person’s railcard. To apply telephone 0345 605 0525 or go to www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk

Travel Assistance

Rail companies provide help with planning your journey. They can go through ticket options and arrange the assistance you need when you travel. This includes having staff to meet you upon arrival. There are several ways that you can book travel assistance. Call National Rail Enquiries on 0345 748 4950, or go to www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk  If you are travelling by tube in London, or through manned overground stations you can take advantage of the ‘turn up and go’ service  simply ask staff at the ticket barrier for support . Transport for London also operate a travel mentor scheme to assist people learn how to make best use of the public transport available to them.  You can also speak to the staff in person at any staffed train station. Airline companies also provide travel assistance. Contact the airline directly for more information.

TV License   

If you are registered as severely sight impaired, you can get 50 per cent off your TV license. FOr more information and to apply, visit this page.

Assistance with directory enquiries

If you’re registered as severely sight impaired or sight impaired, you can make use of the free directory enquiries service. You can use this service whether or not you are with BT. To sign up for this service call 0800 587 0195. Once signed up, all you have to do is to dial 195 and you can talk to a trained operator who will help you with your enquiry. If you ask to be connected to the number you need, you will then be charged for the call.

Assistance from utility companies

Some utilities suppliers (gas, electricity and water) offer certain discounts and support for people with sight loss. Contact your supplier to find out what you may be eligible for. Having sight loss qualifies you to sign up to your utility supplier’s Priority Services Register. This can get you extra help and support with your gas, electricity and water. For more information, contact your utility suppliers.

Leisure concessions

Leisure concessions such as sport, theatre or theme parks, that you and your partner, relative or carer, may be entitled to if you have sight loss. We advise you to always ask about the available discounts. You may be entitled to concessions at the cinema if you’re registered as severely sight impaired or claim certain benefits, including Personal Independence Payments and Attendance Allowance. For more information ask at your local cinema.

Audio description

Some films at the cinema have audio description, where someone explains what is happening on the screen. The majority of cinemas now have this available but check with your local cinema. Some television channels offer this service on certain programmes. Some theatre productions, museums and exhibitions now also have audio-described tours. Vocaleyes is a nationwide audio-description service, providing access to the arts for people with sight loss. 

Reading and accessing information

Reading is important to all of us. There are different ways of reading and the best way to find out what works for you is to try them out. All banks, utility companies and other providers can send your information in different formats, such as large print, audio and electronic or online. Daily newspapers and magazines are available in audio format by subscribing to RNIB Newsagent, or online directly from the publisher. The Talking News Federation can put you in touch with your local talking newspaper group. For more information, visit www.tnf.org.uk There are a variety of audio books available. For more information, call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk or call Calibre Audio Library on 01296 432 339 or visit www.calibre.org.uk or call Listening Books on 020 7407 9417 or visit www.listening-books.org.uk Your local library can also help you with books in your preferred reading format.

Your rights under the Equality Act

By being certified as sight impaired or severely sight impaired, you’re automatically protected from unfair treatment under the Equality Act 2010.If you feel you have been treated unfairly because of your sight loss, or find it difficult to access services because reasonable changes have not been made, you can challenge this. For example, if you have difficulty with reading documents, you can ask for them to be sent to you in large print. If this does not happen, it is a form of discrimination that you can challenge. If this doesn’t resolve things, you can get advice. RNIB’s Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or the Citizens Advice Bureau.