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You are here - Home > Disabilities and Medical Conditions Index > Blind or Partially Sighted

Blind or Partially Sighted - A Guide

Visually Impaired People can take advantage of help from the social,
health, employment services and voluntary organisations - plus extra cash
benefits and tax concessions

see also: Glaucoma and Free Eye Test

Sight and
Magnification Aids

sight and magnification aids

Cash help

If a hospital consultant opthalmogist certifies that you are blind or partially sighted, you can ask to be registered with the local authority. Registration as blind entitles you to a package of concessions:

Television licence at reduced cost

Travel concessions - You may get reduced fares on railway and some airlines (internal flights only) which allow a blind person and guide to travel for the cost of one fare on journeys made for specified reasons. Contact a travel agent for more details.

A higher weekly payment of Income Support - When you are claiming benefit from the DWP plus Housing and Council Tax Benefits if you get these from your local authority.

Fare reductions - Ask your social services/ social work department if there are any local bus company concessions.

Special Income tax allowance - If you apply to the local Inspector of Taxes

Benefits and Allowances:

Registered blind and partially sighted people have the right as disabled people to access benefits etc from the Department of Works and Pensions

Social services

Services may include:

Social workers to support visually impaired people and their families;

Help and advice concerning the health and education of visually impaired people, rehabilitation, job-training and employment;

Equipment and alterations in your home where necessary;

Machines for playing talking books;

Training in the use of Braille of Moon (simplified raised print);

Communication skills and training in getting about independently indoors or out;

Help with leisure pursuits, recreation or sports facilities in settings with sighted or other visually impaired people.

Your local authority may have a contract with a voluntary organisation to provide these services rather than provide all these services itself.

Ask at your local social services department.


If you are partially sighted low vision aids may help you make use of your remaining vision. Low vision aids, including hand and stand magnifiers, can be prescribed under the NHS through the Hospital Eye Service or privately through opticians. If you think low vision aids would be helpful, talk to your GP first.

Learning to get the best from restricted vision requires both professional advice and training. For additional professional advice contact the RNIB or The partially Sighted Society

Artificial eyes are obtainable through your consultant and supplied by the National Artificial Eye Service which arranges appointments at 16 centres servicing 72 clinics in England. Some major eye hospitals have their own arrangements and there is limited private provision. The Glasgow Eye Infirmary and the Eye Pavilion, Edinburgh and Perth Royal Infirmary provide artificial eyes in Scotland. In Wales artificial eyes can be obtained via the Artificial Limbs and Appliances Centres (ALACS)

Employment Service

At the Jobcentre your Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) can advise on opportunities and how you can benefit under the Access to Work Programme. This may provide you with a reader or assistant for you at your place of work, the loan of special equipment and help with travel.

The Employment Service may run a blind homeworker scheme for visually impaired people who wish to run a business.

Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) will give advice to people on how to obtain work or start businesses as well as with rehabilitation and training.

Voluntary organisations and charities:

The Partially Sighted Society This national association provides services and aids to daily living for people who are partially sighted. Tel: 0207 371 0289

RNIB ( Royal National Institute for the Blind) This organisation provides information on all aspects of visual impairment, including employment, mobility aids, benefits, technology, social services and education. RNIB employs 2,000 staff and 10,000 volunteers working from 40 sites to serve over 1 million blind and partially sighted people throughout the country with over 60 services. For information on the services contact RNIB Enquiries, London Office: 0207 388 1266; Peterborough Customer Services: 01733 370 777; Scotland Office: 0131 311 8500; RNIB Resource Centre Scotland: 01786 451 752; Wales Office, 14 Neville St, Canton, Cardiff, CF1 8UX

The Guide Dog for the Blind Association (GDBA) In order to become a guide dog owner, you must be 16 or over, have a significant visual loss which may be combined with other disabilities, and be fit enough to use and care for the dog. The organisation provides training and support at virtually no cost for visually impaired people who would like to have a guide dog. Tel: 0118 983 5555

Opsis is an association of national voluntary organisations working together to provide service for people who are visually impaired. Opsis partners are Action for Blind People, Queen Alexandra College, The Catholic Blind Institute in Liverpool, Henshaw’s Society for the Blind, The Royal London Society for the Blind, The Royal National College for the Blind, Royal School for the Blind, Liverpool, West of England school for Children with Little or No Sight.

Henshaw’s Society for the Blind provides a range of services, including: education; rehabilitation; independence and mobility training; residential and nursing care; sheltered accommodation; community care; outreach and support; resource and local social centres, for blind and partially sighted people of all ages in the North of England and North Wales. Tel: 0161 872 1234

Scottish National Federation for Welfare of the Blind. Tel: 0131 229 4060

Wales Council for the Blind is an umbrella organisation providing information, training and advice. It maintains a network of organisations and a database of services and can refer inquiries to local organisations and contacts. Tel: 02920 473 954

Other services

Books in Large Print may be borrowed from your local public library.

Calibre Audio Library

Audio books bring the pleasure of reading to people who have sight problems or other disabilities. They offer a wide choice of books on standard cassettes and MP3 disks, fiction and non-fiction, for both children and adults. The service is easy to use and is absolutely free.

Radios may be supplied free of charge from the British Wireless for the Blind Fund via your social service department.
Tel: 01622 754757

Telephone rental and installation charges may be paid in part by Telephones for the Blind. Applications must be made by registered blind people via social services.

Tel: 01737 248 032

Talking Newspapers

are circulated by over 500 voluntary groups throughout the UK. You can find out if there is one in your area from the Talking Newspaper Association (United Kingdom) which also distributes national newspapers and magazines on tape to subscribers throughout the UK and overseas. Tel: 01435 866 102

The Royal London Society for the Blind provides advice on training and employment for visually impaired people.
Tel: 01732 592 500

Local societies

There are voluntary groups in towns and cities throughout the UK. To find out about your local group, ask at your social services department, or public library or contact the RNIB. Tel: 0207 388 1266

NALSVI (the National Association of Local Societies for Visually Impaired People), founded in 1991, is a forum for local societies in the UK. Tel: 01904 671 921

The In Touch Handbook is a guide to services published by BBC Broadcasting Support Services, available in print, Braille or on tape from: In Touch Handbook, 37 Charles Street, Cardiff CF1 4EB

Glaucoma is a condition of the eye in which the nerve of sight (optic nerve) has been damaged. This is usually because of increased pressure within the eye. The damage is permanent and initially destroys the off centre part of your vision - your peripheral vision. Sight will continue to deteriorate and eventually cause blindness if the condition is not treated.

Chronic glaucoma is the most common form of the disease and affects mostly people over the age of 40

How can you tell if you have glaucoma ?

You cannot tell by yourself that you have chronic glaucoma until the condition is advanced and some sight has already been lost, but all three glaucoma tests performed by an optician can detect chronic glaucoma at an early stage

Chronic glaucoma has no symptoms and causes no pain. One eye will ‘fill-in’ for the other so it is very difficult to notice if anything is wrong with your vision. By the time you are able to notice a difference to your vision appreciable sight may have already have been lost.

How common is glaucoma ?

About 1 in 50 people over the age of 40 have glaucoma of some type. The condition, in some form, accounts for 13% of those on the blind register.

How can I get tested for Glaucoma ?

Ask your optician for all THREE glaucoma tests at your next eye test. The three tests are Ophthalmoscopy ( viewing the optic disc with a special torch), Perimetry (assessing the field of vision), Tonometry (measuring the eye pressure) - OPT. If your optician is not willing or able to perform all three tests then find an optician who will.

All three tests increase the likelihood of detection by up to 4 times compared with ophthalmoscopy alone.

Who can have glaucoma ? Is it hereditary ?

Anyone can have glaucoma but it is most common in those people over the age of 40 (those of Afro-Caribbean origin have an increased risk).

Glaucoma can be hereditary. Close blood relatives of those with glaucoma are about six times more likely to suffer from glaucoma than those without a family history. Free eye tests are available if you are aged over 40 and have a first degree relative with glaucoma.

How is Glaucoma Treated ?

Once sight is lost from chronic glaucoma it is lost forever. However, the earlier glaucoma is detected the more likely it is that current sight can be maintained for the rest of life. Treatment is usually by eye drops but can also be by tablets, laser treatment or by surgery.

Note - Certain degrees of visual field loss will result in the loss of a driving licence

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