What is low vision?

Low vision is the term used to describe the condition where a person has vision loss and is unable to perform age-appropriate visual tasks even with medical or surgical treatment and/or using conventional spectacles or contact lenses.  Individuals with low vision may experience one or more of the following:

  • reduced central vision
  • reduced peripheral vision
  • reduced ability to adjust to light, contrast, or glare
  • loss of colour vision.

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I've been told nothing can be done to help my vision. Why should I come to the clinic?

There may not be any medical interventions (e.g. medication or surgery) which will cure your eye condition but, there are still things you might be able to do and devices you could use that might help you maximize the vision you have. We call this low vision rehabilitation and this is the focus of the Low Vision Clinic. Our aim is to improve your visual function through the effective use of assessment, training, counselling, and assistive devices.

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How is a low vision assessment different from my regular eye exam?

The low vision assessment evaluates the vision you have. It assesses all aspects of vision including your visual acuity, peripheral vision, colour vision and ability to see contrast. It does not check the health of your eyes, therefore we encourage you to continue to see your eye care professional for regular check-ups.

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Why do I have to send a doctor's report to you?

We want to ensure that you are still taking care of your eyes through a regular eye exam because our assessment does not check the health of the eye. The report also helps us make your visit here more efficient and effective. We can identify training and devices which might be the most beneficial for you before your appointment so we can focus on your goals and devices that would help.

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Do I need a doctor's referral?

You do not need a referral to visit the low vision clinic - just give us a call!

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Why do I need to fill in an information form?

We have many different services and there are numerous devices. Not all the services may be of interest to you and not all devices will fit your needs. By gathering information ahead of time we can insure that your time here is spent on meeting the goals that you have identified as being important for you.

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Why is there a charge for the appointment?

Unfortunately, OHIP does not cover low vision assessments by optometrists so we do have to charge for appointments in order to be able to afford to offer the service. The fee charged is an umbrella fee which covers many services within our clinic. If you receive ODSP, ACSD or OW benefits, have supplemental insurance or are a veteran, you may be eligible for full or partial coverage of the fee. Please speak to us about coverage if you are in this position.

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Can you accommodate special needs?

Absolutely. The clinic has accessible parking and washrooms. A first aid room is available if you need a private room to look after health needs or need to rest. We can conduct assessments without the optometric chair if you have mobility concerns. There is a cafeteria  open in the building September to the beginning of April if you need refreshments during the day. You are also welcome to bring translators, care providers, interveners, or a friend. We have an UbiDuo available allowing real-time, face-to-face typed communication.  Personal amplifiers are also available for use if you have difficulties hearing. Please do not hesitate to let us know what accommodations you need and we will endeavour to make your visit as comfortable and successful as possible.

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Why do I have to have a low vision assessment before I have a CCTV or computer assessment?

The CCTV and computer assessments are most successful if you are using current, up-to-date devices (e.g. reading glasses with a current prescription, tints, field enhancement devices, etc.) The low vision assessment will evaluate your need for such devices. The low vision assessment is also a requirement for Assistive Devices Program funding through the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Before you can be approved for a CCTV or a computer you must have a low vision assessment within the past year.

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How long will the appointment take?

The amount of time varies by the type of appointment.  If you plan on selecting frames for glasses while you are here, you may want to factor in additional time.  The length of time we schedule for appointments is as follows:

  • Low Vision Assessment: 1 hour and 45 minutes
  • Activities of Daily Living and/or Device Training: 1.5 hours
  • CCTV Assessment: 1.5 hours
  • Computer Assessment: 2 hours
  • Counselling: 1 hour

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What if I get tired during the appointment?

We are happy to schedule appointments over multiple days and we can also take breaks during the appointment. We can also finish the appointment on another day if you are too tired to continue.

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Can I bring someone?

You are welcome to bring someone; in fact we recommend it. Patients often say they receive so much information it can be hard to remember it all. Two brains are better than one! A family member or friend can help remember information. We also welcome teachers coming with their students for appointments, interpreters and interveners.  Please note, because of limited space in our CCTV, computer, and counselling rooms only 2 guests can join you for appointments in these rooms.

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What should I bring to my appointment?

Please bring:

  • any spectacles and devices (e.g. magnifiers) you are currently using.  If the device is too large to bring with you just make a note of the brand and model 
  • your health card - even through OHIP does not cover the cost of the appointment, you do need to have a current OHIP card to apply for ADP device funding

  • sample reading material if you have identified reading as being difficult

  • current list of medications

  • if you receive ODSP, OW or ACSD benefits please bring a copy of the statement for that month.  It is needed to receive additional ADP coverage

  • friend or family member

  • payment for appointment

  • cash if you wish to purchase lunch during the day in the clinic as the cafeteria does not accept debit or credit cards

  • sweater, snacks, medications or other items you might need during your visit to be comfortable

  • if you are having an assessment regarding a portable high technology device you currently have (e.g. laptop, tablet, smartphone) please bring that device with you.

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Where can I eat during the day?

There is a small cafeteria, the Eye Opener Café on the same floor as the clinic. It is open September to early April. You are also welcome to bring food with you and make use of the cafeteria without having to buy something there. There are also other food service options within walking distance around the University campus and a plaza on University Avenue West with numerous restaurants.

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Where can I stay overnight if I'm coming from out of town?

There are some guest accommodations available for rent at the University of Waterloo at St. Paul's residence, and in the summer at St. Jerome's residence, Conrad Grebel residence and the Conference Centre. Some hotels in the Kitchener-Waterloo area also offer a discounted rate for patients. Please speak with our booking coordinator, Linda at 519-888-4708 to obtain a list of hotels.

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How do I get to the clinic?

We are located at the University of Waterloo in the School of Optometry & Vision Science. The School can be found at 200 Columbia Street West in Waterloo between the intersections of Columbia St./Hagey Boulevard and Columbia St./Phillip St.

street map showing the location of the clinic

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Where do I park?

Our parking entrance is on Columbia Street between the rail tracks and the University of Waterloo Columbia Street entrance.

Parking is free for patients with appointments, in the O lot only, ask the cashier at our front desk for a token when you leave.

Otherwise, the parking cost is $5 for the coin-operated pay-as-you-leave lot O, or $2 per hour for the limited number of metered spots in front of our building. There is additional paid parking behind the building in lot X.

Four accessible parking spots are located next to the Main Clinic entrance.

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I got a CCTV from you and it isn't working. How do I return it for repair?

CCTVs which are leased and are still under warranty should be returned to SEEPAC at the University of Waterloo for repair. Your CCTV was shipped with an envelope with return labels and a form for the courier with our address and account number. If you do not have these documents, please call our shipper/receiver at 1-800-565-5965 for instructions. Additional information on returning the CCTV and instructions on how to pack it up are available at seepac.com.

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Where can I get more information about the Assistive Devices Program?

More information about the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care's Assistive Devices Program (ADP) is available on the Ministry's website at http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/adp/default.aspx.

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