Access to low-vision rehabilitation services: barriers and enablers


Background: The current mismatch between the need for and uptake of low-vision services has been attributed to various barriers including different service delivery models and referral pathways. This study evaluates the referral pathway and low-vision service provision of the Royal Society for the Blind (RSB) in South Australia.

Methods: All new referrals from the 20082009 financial year to the RSB were reviewed. Initially, patients were contacted by a triage officer within one week of referral. Initial appointments were made in the Low Vision Clinic with a multidisciplinary team. Reasons for declining the appointment or non-attendance were tracked via telephone.

Results: There were 1116 patients referred over a 12-month period and 1082 (97 per cent) were reviewed in the Low Vision Clinic. Most attendees (92 per cent) lived within 50 kilometres of the clinic. There were 34 referred patients, who declined or did not attend the assessment. All non-attendees also lived within 50 kilometres of the Low Vision Centre. Concurrent major health problems (27 per cent) and patients not feeling the need for low-vision rehabilitation (27 per cent) were the most common reasons for not accessing the service. Only 125 patients (11.6 per cent) accessed volunteer transport services and only 24 patients (2.2 per cent) needed an interpreter service.

Conclusions: The attendance rate is significantly higher than in other published studies. The distance to travel or transport difficulties were not significant barriers. Patient perception that either the service was not required or would not help them was the main barrier. The referral and triage process appeared to be a major enabler of low-vision service uptake.

Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology 94.2 March 2011
Submitted 25 April 2010; Revised 10 August 2010;
Accepted for publication 19 August 2010.

Albert I Matti* BSc (Hons) BMBS,
Konrad Pesudovs PhD,
Andrew Daly§ BEc ACA FAIM JP,
Margaret Brown§ BScApp (OT),
* Department of Ophthalmology and
† Department of Optometry and Vision Science, Flinders University, Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park, South Australia, Australia
§ Royal Society for the Blind Inc., Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.


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