The Vision Rehabilitation Service at the New England Eye Center helps patients with low vision or partial sight to make full use of their remaining vision at the highest level possible.
Many eye diseases and injuries, as well as birth defects, may cause low vision. The most common cause is macular degeneration (AMD). Since AMD results in only central retinal visual loss, leaving peripheral (side) vision unaffected, it is often possible to help these patients make better use of the remaining side vision. Conversely patients with peripheral visual field loss due to hemianopia or RP can benefit from special devices developed by Dr. Peli for treating these conditions. The Vision Rehabilitation Service provides a complete low vision evaluation that determines visual function under various conditions, and assesses the patient’s work or home visual requirements.
The service fits patients, based on the evaluation results, with one or more visual aids to help him or her perform various daily activities. The service also provides instruction and in-office training in the use of a full array of optical and non-optical aids.
The service also offers:
- a complete selection of advanced electronic visual aids (television and scanning devices);
- a Pediatric Vision Rehabilitation Program (in collaboration with our pediatric ophthalmology Service) including specialized low vision evaluation and rehabilitation for children and adolescents;
- a complete consulting service regarding driving rehabilitation or driving cessations, as needed.
Visual aids cannot cure or reverse partial sight. Visual aids prescribed and dispensed at the service are usually aimed at providing magnification. With proper magnification, many patients can perform tasks that were impossible without magnification. Other devices serve to expand the peripheral field.
Reading & Other Near Vision Aids
The magnification for reading may be provided by various types of spectacles, ranging from fairly common looking reading glasses to extremely strong magnification glasses. Magnification for reading and other near tasks may be provided with a variety of hand-held magnifiers. The type and strength of the magnifier prescribed are fitted individually based on the type and severity of the visual loss and the task to be accomplished. Attention is given to the patient’s limitation of manual control, dexterity or posture, which may affect the utility of the aids.
Electronic aids for magnification include various types of closed circuit TV magnifiers, ranging from the large, desktop models to small, portable (battery operated) systems. These devices provide larger magnification (30-60 times) and therefore afford the visually impaired person flexibility and comfort in reading.
Illumination and proper use of light sources are essential for successful use of visual aids. In addition to providing a number of self-contained illuminated magnifiers, our service will educate the patients in the selection of home illumination and adequate use of light in various situations.
Control of light also includes the removal or reduction of glare. Patients are instructed in glare avoidance techniques and methods. Full wrap around sunglasses are fitted and dispensed with needed.
Can Visual Aids Help Distance Vision?
Magnification for distance tasks is provided by use of telescopic aids. The telescopes may be hand-held (used like a field binocular or opera glasses) or spectacle mounted. Some of the newer telescopes were developed with special attention to patient’s concerns regarding the appearance of the aids and may be quite inconspicuous.
What About Driving?
In Massachusetts, as in many other states, it is legal for some visually impaired persons to continue to drive a motor vehicle using spectacle-mounted (bioptic) telescopes. The Vision Rehabilitation Services does not license patients for driving. We provide the visual aids, but the Department of Motor Vehicles has the final say in determining the patient’s qualification for licensure.
Dr. Peli conducts research and develop visual aids for driving with low vision. He is an author of a recent book titled, Driving with Confidence: A Practical Guide to Driving with Low Vision.