A New Study Examines Barriers to Low Vision Rehabilitation

The ARVO logo. It consists of the letters ARVO, preceded by the drawing of an eye

As a longtime vision rehabilitation and low vision therapist, I was very interested to read yet another excellent and helpful study about the usage of vision rehabilitation services.

Barriers to Low Vision Rehabilitation – The Montreal Barriers Study has been published online ahead-of-print as an article abstract in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, the official journal of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).

ARVO is an international organization that encourages and assists research, training, publication, and dissemination of knowledge in vision and ophthalmology, including low vision.

The authors are Olga Overbury and Walter Wittich, who represent the following Canadian institutions and organizations: School of Optometry, University of Montreal; Department of Ophthalmology, McGill University; Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire en réadaptation; Centre de recherche institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, Université de Montréal; and the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre.

About the Study (from the article abstract)

One objective of the Montreal Barriers Study is to examine demographic characteristics of people with vision impairment that may hinder their referral or decision to access rehabilitation services:


Phase I interviewed patients in ophthalmology department waiting rooms to determine demographic variables that may be related to their usage of the rehabilitation process.

Phase II examined variables recorded in the rehabilitation agency file of those who had made the choice to access services.

Phase III examined the rehabilitation access behavior of those participants who were referred to rehabilitation services as part of Phase I.


Phase I: 54% of the 702 participants had been referred to and received rehabilitation services. An additional 13% were aware of these services but chose not to access them, whereas 33% were unaware of their existence. The variables associated with positive access choice were level of education, diagnosis, race, visual acuity at the time of interview, and living situation.

Phase II: Researchers discovered that visual acuity at agency intake was markedly better than at the initial study interview.

Phase III: Only 56% of the participants who were referred to rehabilitation services as part of the Phase I protocol had engaged in rehabilitation services.


It seems that even under ideal referral situations, there remain barriers to vision rehabilitation services that have not been specifically identified in the present study. Further research is necessary on the psychological and psychosocial contributors to this process.

I look forward to reading the published article and I thank the authors for drawing the ophthalmology profession’s attention to the need for continuing research about the vision rehabilitation needs of adults and older adults.