Skip to main content

Take a Closer Look at Low Vision Therapy

The demand for low vision therapists will increase significantly as the baby boomers age.

Currently, about 5.5 million Americans age 65 and older are severely visually impaired, says the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). It adds that in the next 30 years, as the enormous baby boomer generation ages, this number will double.

Low vision therapists mainly work with adults 65 years old and beyond, says Marshall Flax. He is the low vision committee chair of the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).

But will there be enough low vision therapists to keep up with the demand?

What is a Low Vision Therapist?

A low vision therapist, or low vision rehabilitation worker, works with people who have lost a significant amount of vision due to an injury or an eye disease. Even with glasses, they wouldn't be able to do things like read print or get a driver's license.

Low vision therapists help people use the vision that they do have. "What we hope to do is help people maintain their independence and increase their safety," Flax says.

The ACVREP says that a certified low vision therapist assesses the visual abilities for everyday tasks that are important to the client, such as writing letters or finding lost objects.

After the assessment, the low vision therapist would say, "Oh, your goal is to read your computer. Here are the things that will help you do that," Flax says.

While 70 percent of the severely visually impaired are seniors over 65, there are also younger clients. Roughly five percent are children and 25 percent of clients are working-age adults, Flax says.

"Someone like a truck driver who couldn't drive a truck anymore could maybe move into dispatching if they had the right adaptive equipment," Flax says.

The Technology Trend

"Technology is exploding in this industry," says Dawn Pickering. She is a vision rehabilitation worker with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). "The change in the last 10 years is astronomical."

Before the 1950s, you were either treated as fully sighted or blind, Flax says.

With the advance of medical and optical technology through the '50s and '60s, more people had their vision loss stopped short of blindness. Because of this, more low vision aids were developed.

"So during this time, low vision started to evolve as somewhat of a separate field," Flax says.

Many assistive devices continue to get cheaper and smaller as time goes on. Computer technology allows people with low vision to work on a computer with the text and images enlarged.

Flax says that in the past, older adults didn't want anything to do with computers. But now, many at least just want to check their e-mail.

How to Get Into It

Flax says that many low vision therapists don't have any kind of certification or formal training in the United States.

"We hope one will have a certification," Flax says. "There's a bill in Congress to amend Medicare so if you want Medicare reimbursement, you would have to be a certified low vision therapist or an occupational therapist or a physical therapist."

To get a certification through the ACVREP, you need at least a four-year degree. If the degree is not in some sort of health-care education or rehabilitation, then candidates must prove that they've taken some additional training in low vision.

You can also get a master's degree in this field.

These programs have grown considerably, yet there's still an "extreme shortage" of low vision therapists and other eye-care personnel graduating from certificate and master's programs, says Almeda P. Ruger. She is the coordinator of the vision rehabilitation services at a school with low vision program.

Jobs and Money

It's possible to work at an optometrist's office. If you're really ambitious, you could set up a private clinic.

"A lot of low vision therapists work for the veteran's administration hospitals," Ruger says. As well, every state has an office of vocational rehabilitation that pays for low vision services and devices.

There's quite a bit of opportunity for part-time work in the U.S., Flax says. "Certain clinics may not be able to hire you full time, so you may have to get two or three part-time jobs."


Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals
Offers professional certification

Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
An international organization for low vision education

Lighthouse Guild
Offers resources on vision impairment and vision rehabilitation

American Foundation for the Blind
Dedicated to independent living, literacy and employment for the visually impaired

Resources for Blind and Vision Impared
This site has links to many resources and covers a wide-range of needs

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support

  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900


Powered by XAP

OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.