Practice-based low vision trial

The Blind Foundation and Matthews Eyewear Eyecare group are trialling low vision clinics, providing free rehabilitation support to people with low vision who are finding it hard to read, even with their best corrective lenses.

The nine-month trial started in October with clinics running at Matthews’ practices in Auckland, Paraparaumu, Cambridge, Nelson, Blenheim, Motueka and Richmond on a one-day-per-month basis. The trial target is to work with more than 400 patients at 100 clinics. Patients referred to a clinic remain under the care of their usual eye health practitioner throughout the process.

Commenting on the trial, Norman Evans, the Blind Foundation’s national manager, said while it’s still early days, it’s clear there is an unmet need to support people with low vision. “There are many people for whom glasses are not enough, but who don’t see themselves as ‘blind’. These people are coming to the trial clinics to get advice and assistive devices to make the most of the sight they have remaining.”

Although the clinics’ aim is to make everyday activities related to reading easier for patients, the trial’s ultimate goal is to validate demand for low vision rehabilitation in the community and highlight the opportunity for the eye health industry to build a sustainable model that can be rolled out nationally, said Evans. “The trial is not specifically about the role the Blind Foundation plays, rather how the needs of people with low vision can be addressed by various specialists across the sector.” 

The clinics will run until June 2019, though this can be extended to ensure statistically useful data. Once the trial’s completed, the Foundation will produce a report for the Ministry of Health, which it hopes will get behind this initiative on a nationwide basis.

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