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Sensory Inclusion Service

Visual Impairment

What is a Visual Impairment?

You do not have to have a total loss of vision to be visually impaired. To be classed as visually impaired you would have to:

  • Have a loss of sight that is (usually) diagnosed by a specialist eye doctor called an ophthalmologist
  • That can’t be fully corrected by wearing glasses, contact lenses or a specialist medical treatment or surgical procedure.

What is a QTVI?

A Qualified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (QTVI) is a term you will hear and see written in reports if your child is supported by our service. The following video from the RNIB and VIEW helps to explain:

Are All Visual Conditions the Same?


The short answer is no! How much you see and how it affects different parts of your vision may depend on:

  • The type of eye condition and which part of the visual system it affects - the eyes, the pathway for visual information to the brain or the brain itself
  • How severely it affects sight
  • How far it has progressed
  • Whether it affects one or both eyes
  • Whether it affects parts of your visual field (how far you can see on each side, top or bottom of vision with each eye)

Even then there are many other variables such as:

  • Whether it is a stable condition or one that will change in the future
  • How tired, unwell or anxious you are during the day
  • Even children who have the same condition can be affected to a greater or lesser extent or experience vision differently to someone else who also has that condition.

The RNIB website below may be useful in explaining some of the aspects of your child’s visual condition.

RNIB Eye Conditions

It is useful to understand about your child’s visual condition. However, there are so many variables so it is important that you get information from the eye specialist who diagnosed them or is providing their on-going care. If you are still struggling to understand you can also speak to the QTVI who supports them.

How Do We Decide Levels of Support?

The type and frequency of support we give depends on need and circumstances.  Each case is considered on its own merits based on a nationally recognised matrix that classifies vision into categories of:

  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Severe
  • Profound

To try to illustrate what these categories may mean, the following contrast mild vision loss with a profound one:

Mild vision loss - Distance Vision Within the range 6/12 - 6/18 Snellen/Kay (LogMAR 0.3 – 0.48)

You would need to be 6 metres away to see what someone with fully corrected sight can see at between 12 and 18 metres away. This is a representation of 6/12 vision, vision is a little blurrier than if it was fully corrected.

Vi2 1

6 metres is about as tall as an adult giraffe!

Vi3 1

Compare this to a profound vision loss...

Profound vision loss - Distance Vision Less than (worse than) 6/120 Snellen/Kay (LogMAR 1.32+)

You would need to be 6 metres away to see what someone with fully corrected sight can see at 120 metres away. Or you may only know that there is a difference between light and shade. Or be completely blind. 


120 metres is the same height as the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower at the venue for the 2012 Olympics in London

Vi5 1

Mild and profound near vision examples:

Mild vision loss - Able to comfortably access print size 14 to 18

Hi font size 1

Profound vision loss - Educationally blind/Braille user/can access small quantities of print larger than N36

Hi font size 2


Depending on their level of need, support will be given through visits ranging in frequency from multiple weekly visits, weekly, fortnightly, once or twice per term, once or twice per year.

This support will be provided by a QTVI, and may also involve our Access Support Assistants, Technical Officer and Habilitation Specialists.

What Other Useful information About VI is Available?

The Sensory Inclusion Service (SIS) is not affiliated to any of the following organisations in any way.

Please use discretion when giving personal details to any organisation.

As well as the free advice and information most provide, some offer the chance to join or become a member and this may require you to pay a one off or annual fee payment.

The description of services and contact details were correct at the time of writing; the organisations may offer other services, withdraw services or change contact details and SIS does not have any responsibility or liability concerning the services offered or any changes to them.


Contact Details

Useful for

Albinism Fellowship

Phone: +44 7946 457979


  • Information, advice and support
  • Meetings and events
  • Conferences

Aniridia Network UK

Phone: 07792 867 949


  • Advices
  • Conferences and meet ups
  • Befriending service

BBS UK Bardet Biedl Syndrome


  • Advice and information
  • Networking
  • Benefits advice
  • Conferences

Battens Disease Family Association

Tel: 0800 046 9832


  • Family support
  • Information
  • Hospices
  • Conferences

Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (Retinoblastoma)

Tel: 0207 377 5578 


  • Support and information
  • Research
  • Financial help

Contact a Family


Tel: 020 7608 8700

  • Support Groups

Guide Dogs

Tel: 0800 781 1444


  • Guide / Buddy dogs
  • My Guide – supported mobility
  • Family /Education
  • Support
  • Mobility, life skills training
  • Custom Eyes – large print books
  • Access Technology Grants

Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy Society  

  • Advice and information
  • Emotional support

Listening Books

Tel: 020 7407 9417

Fax: 020 7403 1377


  • Download and streaming of audio books


Look: National Federation of Families with Visually Impaired Children

Tel: 07464351958


  • Connect with other families and young people with a visual impairment
  • Holiday accommodation
  • Counselling for 18+
  • Mentor scheme

Microphthalmia, Anophthalmia, Coloboma Support

Tel: 0800 169 8088


  • Help and support
  • Grants
  • Information about prosthetic eyes
  • Activities incl. sailing
  • Research
  • Respite Holidays

Nystagmus Network


Tel: 01427 718093

  • Information and advice

Olivia’s Vision (Uveitis)


  • Information and advice
  • Support 
  • Forum

Retina UK

Home - Retina UK


Tel:  0300 111 4000

  • Information and support incl. helpline
  • Research

Royal Society for Blind Children

Tel: 020 3198 0225


  • Family Support Service
  • Range of other support services

Royal National Institute of Blind People RNIB

Tel: 0303 123 9999

  • Advice and information
  • Sales of equipment
  • Large print library and talking books
  • Activity days and breaks 
  • Specialist Holidays
  • Resource Centres


Tel: 0808 800 3333


  • Support and information for a variety of disabilities

SENSE For Deaf Blind People

Tel: 0300 330


  • Advice and assessment
  • Holidays
  • Short breaks
  • Advice on accommodation choices
  • Community resource centres

VICTA (Visually Impaired Children Taking Action)

Tel: 01908 240 831





  • Grants
  • Activities
  • Caravan Holiday

What Useful Videos about VI are there?

What Happens in the Eye Clinic?

At the clinic your child may see different health professionals, depending on why they have been referred:

  • a doctor specialising in ophthalmology (ophthalmologist)
  • an optometrist: a specialist in testing vision and prescribing glasses for older children - also known as an optician
  • an orthoptist: a specialist in testing the vision and ocular (eye) movements of infants, children and young people of all ages

In clinic:

  • your child might have their eye sight tested and to get glasses or contact lenses if necessary
  • have their visual development monitored (e.g. have further checks up during the year)
  • photographs may be taken of your child’s eyes, if required
  • your child’s visual field (peripheral vision), colour vision, contrast sensitivity or intraocular pressures may also be tested
  • your child may have eye drops
  • if your child wears glasses it is really very important that you bring your child’s glasses along to their appointment.

Eye drops help to dilate the pupil, this makes it easier for the ophthalmologist to examine the back of their eyes. These drops usually take approximately 20 to 30 minutes to take effect.  The drops take a few hours to wear off so your child’s vision will be blurrier than usual, and they may find light uncomfortable. Sunglasses and a peaked cap can help when they are outside.

What is Habilitation?


Children and young people (CYP) who have a visual impairment (VI) may find it challenging to travel and do everyday tasks independently and safely. These mobility, orientation and living skills are known as habilitation skills.

Our service can assess the needs of CYP with VI and provide on-going programmes of support that will help them to develop skills to ensure that they can live as independently as possible.

We also audit the environment of educational settings and recommend adaptations to make them more suitable for a child or young person with a visual impairment.

We have a Registered and Qualified Habilitation Specialist (RQHS) who is a member of Habilitation VI UK.

For more information on habilitation you can visit the Habilitation VI UK page:

Welcome to Habilitation VI UK - Habilitation VI UK

A video showing some of the skills taught in mobility and orientation can be viewed here:

Mobility and Orientation Training Royal Blind School

Visual impairment resources library

The Visual Impairment Resources Library is for the use of parents/carers of children/young people with a visual impairment. 

The catalogue will show you the resources and items that are available to loan for a period of three weeks. Items are to be collected and returned to the Sensory Inclusion Service at Darby House (address below). All items need to be signed for on collection.

If there is something that you would like to loan please contact SIS via the email below.

Email address: