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Reprint of: Barriers to accessing low-vision care: the patient’s perspective

      Abstract

      Objective

      To review the literature regarding barriers that hinder access to low-vision (LV) care from the perspective of individuals with vision impairment.

      Design

      Literature review.

      Methods

      PubMed and Scopus were used to identify relevant cross-sectional studies of awareness of, and barriers to, LV rehabilitation. Studies were included if they met the following criteria: (i) year of publication within the past 20 years (between 1992 and 2012), and (ii) participants of the study included individuals with vision impairment. Fourteen studies met the criteria for inclusion and were included in this review.

      Results

      Barriers to accessing low-vision service (LVS), from the perspective of individuals with vision impairment, included the following: misconceptions of LVSs, miscommunication by eye care professionals, lack of awareness, location and transportation, the need to appear independent, negative societal views, influence of family and friends, insufficient visual impairment to warrant services, cost of LVS, and reduced perception of vision loss relative to other losses in life. Other factors that were associated with lower use of LVS included income level, comorbidities, and education level.

      Conclusions

      The reasons for not accessing LV rehabilitation are complex, and some may be more easily addressed than others. A heightened awareness of LV rehabilitation may be achieved with better communication by eye care professionals and with public education. The stigma associated with the usage of LV aids and admitting a disability still seems to exist, but may be reduced by increasing societal understanding of LV.

      Résumé

      Objet?>

      Examen de la documentation concernant les obstacles qui gênent l’accès aux soins de redressement de la faiblesse visuelle dans la perspective des personnes ayant une déficience visuelle.

      Nature?>

      Revue de la littérature

      Méthodes?>

      PUBMED et SCOPUS ont été utilisés pour identifier des études transversales pertinentes portant sur la sensibilisation et les obstacles d’accès à la réadaptation visuelle. L’inclusion des études reposait sur les critères suivants : (1) les publications pertinentes des 20 dernières années (entre 1992 et 2012); (2) les personnes atteintes de déficience visuelle comprises dans les études. Quatorze études ont répondu aux critères d’inclusion et furent comprises dans la revue.

      Résultats?>

      Dans la perspective des personnes ayant des faiblesses visuelles, les obstacles à l’accès aux services de traitement comprenaient ce qui suit : les mauvaises communications des professionnels des soins oculaires, le manque de sensibilisation, l’incompréhension des services de faiblesse visuelle, la localisation et le transport, le besoin de paraître indépendant, les vues négatives de la société, l’influence de la famille et des amis, l’insuffisance de la déficience visuelle pour justifier les services, le coût des services de déficience visuelle et la faible perception de la perte visuelle relativement à d’autres pertes durant la vie. D’autres facteurs, furent associés à une plus faible utilisation des services de déficience visuelle, notamment la faiblesse du revenu, les comorbidités et le manque d’enseignement.

      Conclusion?>

      Les raisons de ne pas accéder au redressement de la faiblesse visuelle sont complexes, mais on peut en aborder certaines plus facilement que les autres. Par exemple, de meilleures communications de la part des professionnels des soins oculaires et un meilleur enseignement public pourraient accroître la sensibilisation au redressement de la faiblesse visuelle. Les stigmates associés à l’utilisation d’aides à la faiblesse visuelle et à l’admission d’un déficit visuel semblent toujours exister et peuvent être réduits en augmentant la compréhension sociale de la faiblesse visuelle.
      In the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey of 2006, 9% of Canadians aged ≥65 years reported a visual disability.

      Statistics Canada. Participation and activity limitation survey: Table 5.1 type of disability for adults and children with disabilities by sex, Canada, 2006. www.Statcan.Gc.Ca/Pub/89-628-X/2007003/T/4125078-eng.htm. Accessed November 30, 2009.

      This age group is projected to reach 20% to 26% of the national population by 2025–2031.

      Statistics Canada. Projected population by age group according to three projection scenarios for 2006, 2011, 2016, 2021, 2026 and 2031, at July 1. www40.Statcan.Ca/L01/Cst01/Demo08a-eng.htm. Accessed November 30, 2009.

      By combining these data (25% × 9%), it can be inferred that at least 2.25% of the Canadian population may experience a visual disability as early as 2025. This is a minimum figure, as it does not include those who are younger than 65 years with visual impairment. The financial cost of vision loss in Canada has been estimated at $15.8 billion per annum in 2007.
      • Cruess A.F.
      • Gordon K.D.
      • Bellan L.
      • Mitchell S.
      • Pezzullo M.L.
      The cost of vision loss in Canada. 2. Results.
      This figure excluded the value of lost well-being (disability and premature death), which was estimated to be an additional $11.7 billion.
      • Cruess A.F.
      • Gordon K.D.
      • Bellan L.
      • Mitchell S.
      • Pezzullo M.L.
      The cost of vision loss in Canada. 2. Results.
      Thus, visual impairment is a significant problem, and rehabilitation, which can reduce some of the personal costs, is an important issue. Although the demand for low-vision service (LVS) should be high, the rate of awareness and use of LVSs continues to be low, ranging from 29% to 75%.
      • Gresset J.
      • Baumgarten M.
      Prevalence of visual impairment and utilization of rehabilitation services in the visually impaired elderly population of Quebec.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      • Nia K.
      • Markowitz S.N.
      Provision and utilization of low-vision rehabilitation services in Toronto.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      The objective of this review is to describe the barriers that prevent access to low-vision (LV) care from the perspective of individuals with vision impairment.

      Methods

      This review included studies that investigated barriers to LVSs as perceived by individuals with vision impairment. Relevant studies were identified through a MeSH search in Scopus and PubMed using the following terms: “delivery of health care OR health services accessibility” AND “barrier*”AND “low vision OR vision rehabilitation.” Additional studies were sought through the citations of already identified papers.
      To be included, studies had to meet the following criteria: (i) year of publication within the past 20 years (1992–2012), and (ii) participants of the study included individuals with vision impairment. The method and results were extracted from each relevant study using a data collection form. From this form, barriers were classified into themes.

      Results

      Characteristics of the Studies

      Fourteen studies were identified as meeting this study’s criteria. Eight studies were from Canada, 3 were from Australia, 2 were from the United States, and 1 was from Finland. A summary of the studies is given in Table 1.
      Table 1Summary of studies by study setting and participants
      Are Patient Participants Aware of LVR?Do Patient Participants Use LVR?
      StudyCountryStudy Setting/Type of StudyType of Study(s) and Type of ParticipantsTotal No. of Participants Who Are Visually ImpairedAwareUnawareUserNonuser
      Southall and Wittich (2012)
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      CanadaHospital/qualitativeFocus group participants recruited through their involvement in the Montreal Barriers Study
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      21YNIYNIYNIYNI
      Overbury and Wittich (2011)
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      CanadaHospital/quantitativeThree phases of this study (Montreal Barriers Study): Phase I: survey: patients with BCVA <6/21, from ophthalmology clinics at 4 university-affiliated hospitals in Montreal, Que.70267% (phase 1)33%54% (phase 1)46%
      Phase II: follow-up of agency files to ascertain level of vision loss at time of first contact with rehabilitation service providers for patients who choose to use the service
      Phase III: follow-up of agency files to track whether patients who were initially unaware of LVS had successfully found their way into the rehabilitation system after they were made aware of LVS by the research group
      Spafford et al. (2010)
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      CanadaCommunity/qualitativeSemistructured interview: seniors >70 years of age, from southwestern region of Ontario who had self-reported noncorrectable vision loss affecting daily functioning and who had not sought LVS3426%74%100%
      Matti et al. (2011)
      • Matti A.I.
      • Pesudovs K.
      • Daly A.
      • Brown M.
      • Chen C.S.
      Access to low-vision rehabilitation services: barriers and enablers.
      AustraliaNonprofit LV centre/quantitativeProspective review of all new referrals to the Royal Society for the Blind of South Australia over 1 year1116100%97%3%
      Mwilambwe et al. (2009)
      • Gresset J.
      • Baumgarten M.
      Prevalence of visual impairment and utilization of rehabilitation services in the visually impaired elderly population of Quebec.
      CanadaHospital/quantitativeSurvey: patients with BCVA <6/21, from ophthalmology clinics at 4 university-affiliated hospitals in Montreal, Que.44871%29%57%43%
      Laitinen et al. (2008)
      • Gold D.
      • Simson H.
      Identifying the needs of people in Canada who are blind or visually impaired: preliminary results of a nation-wide study.
      FinlandFinland/quantitativeCross-sectional population-based survey.147* (out of 6645)79% of those with LV21% of those with LV
      Vision impairment defined as binocular VA <6/24
      O’Connor et al (2008)
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      AustraliaHospital/quantitative and qualitativeSurvey: patients with BCVA <6/12, from Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Melbourne, Australia98100%49%51%
      MacLachlan et al. (2007)
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      CanadaSetting unclear/qualitativeQualitative phenomenologic approach with female nonusers of LVS Two semistructured, in-depth interviews4YNIYNI100%
       1. In-person with open-ended questions
       2. Phone/person—clarify and probe deeper into issues that were raised during the first interview
      A general descriptive questionnaire
      NEI VFQ-25 Vision Function Questionnaire
      Gold and Simson (2005)
      • Gold D.
      • Simson H.
      Identifying the needs of people in Canada who are blind or visually impaired: preliminary results of a nation-wide study.
      CanadaSetting unclear/quantitativeOnline and phone survey of adults aged ≥21 years with vision loss. Recruited randomly from CNIB client database, promotional materials in consumer publications, web sites and list serves, interviews, random contacts through professional and other organizations, and word of mouth352UnclearUnclearUnclearUnclear
      Nia and Markowitz (2007)
      • Nia K.
      • Markowitz S.N.
      Provision and utilization of low-vision rehabilitation services in Toronto.
      CanadaHospital/quantitativeInterview of patients with LV regarding the provision and utilization of LVS, and their satisfaction with the services provided in 2 hospitals in Toronto, Ont.34UnclearUnclearUnclearUnclear
      Siemsen et al. (2005)
      • Siemsen D.W.
      • Bergstrom A.R.
      • Hathaway J.C.
      Efficacy of a low vision patient consultation.
      United StatesHospital/quantitativeSurvey of the use of a patient-education consultation to enable patients and their families to take better advantage of LVS; participants were patients involved in a new Mayo Clinic program within the first 7 months of its operation34100%100%
      Gold et al. (2006)
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      CanadaNonprofit LV centre/type of study unclearTelephone survey: seniors from the CNIB30100%100%
      Mailed survey: OMD, OD, OO
      Short email questionnaire: VR workers
      Walter et al. (2004)
      • Walter C.
      • Althouse R.
      • Humble H.
      • Leysa Mj
      • Odom Jv West
      Virginia survey of visual health: low vision and barriers to access.
      United StatesWest Virginia/quantitativeTelephone survey: random sampling of households in West Virginia to assess barriers to vision treatment experienced by individuals with visual health problems and individuals with LV57 (out of 1026)19% of those with LV81% of those with LV12% of those with LV88% of those with LV
      Pollard et al. (2003)
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      AustraliaHospital/quantitative and qualitativeInterview: patients with BCVA <6/12, from Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, a tertiary hospital in Melbourne, Australia8042.5%57.5%36%64%
      Focus group: people who had received assistance from LV organizations and volunteers with the Vision Australia Foundation
      LVR, low-vision rehabilitation; YNI, yes, but no specific percentage was reported; BCVA, best corrected visual acuity; LVS, low-vision service; LV, low vision; VA, visual acuity; NEI, National Eye Institute; VFQ, Vision Function Questionnaire; CNIB, Canadian National Institute for the Blind; OMD, ophthalmologist; OD, optometrist; OO, optician; VR, vision rehabilitation workers.
      147 out of 6645 were found to have visual impairment. The percentage of those who were users or non-users is calculated as a percentage of 174. 57 out of 1026 surveyed had visual impairment. Percentage of those who were aware/unaware or users/non-users is calculated out of 57.

      Outcome Measures: Barriers perceived by Patients

      Misconceptions of Low-Vision Service

      Misconceptions of LVS were investigated in 8 of the 14 studies,
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      • Gold D.
      • Simson H.
      Identifying the needs of people in Canada who are blind or visually impaired: preliminary results of a nation-wide study.
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      • Laitinen A.
      • Koskinen S.
      • Rudanko S.
      • Martelin T.
      • Laatikainen L.
      • Aromaa A.
      Use of eye care services and need for assistance in the visually impaired.
      which showed that many individuals with vision impairment do not understand what vision rehabilitation entails. Pollard et al.’s study
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      demonstrated that 26.3% (21/80) of the participants with vision impairment did not identify themselves as having LV or did not understand this term. Of these 21 participants, 90.4% (19/21) were individuals with mild-to-moderate vision impairment.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      A majority (70.6%; 24/34) of older nonusers of LVS who self-reported vision loss that notably affected their daily functioning felt that they could “manage” critical tasks, had a visually able helper, or felt that they were not “blind.”
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      Older nonusers of vision rehabilitation service who were “managing” tended to have a misconception that the service should only be used when a person was blind
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      or required a great deal of assistance to accomplish daily living tasks.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      Individuals with vision loss tended to seek assistance only when vision was compromised enough that valued activity could no longer be performed.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      In 2 studies,
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      40% of referred patients declined LV assessment because they did not feel the need for vision rehabilitation or felt that the service would not benefit them. In general, people felt that vision rehabilitation services can be beneficial, but they were not certain when they may access the service.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      MacLachlan et al.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      suggested that this perception may be because of the gradual nature of the patient’s vision loss and the desire to avoid the service for “as long as possible.”
      Individuals with moderate vision impairment received vision rehabilitation less often than those with severe vision impairment
      • Laitinen A.
      • Koskinen S.
      • Rudanko S.
      • Martelin T.
      • Laatikainen L.
      • Aromaa A.
      Use of eye care services and need for assistance in the visually impaired.
      and were less likely to be made aware of LVS.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      An increased subjective severity of vision loss was associated with increased readiness to seek LV help.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      Mwilambwe et al.’s
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      study found that among those who were aware of LVSs, “those who had visual acuity between 20/200 [6/60] and 20/400 [6/120] and those who had visual acuity worse than 20/400 [6/120] were more likely to take advantage of vision rehabilitation compared with those with visual acuity between 20/70 [6/21] and 20/200 [6/60].” Therefore, better visual acuity is associated with less awareness, and once a patient with better visual acuity is aware, better visual acuity is also associated with lower uptake of services.
      Miscommunication by eye care professionals. Miscommunication by eye care professionals was explored in 7 of the 14 studies.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      The actions and inactions of eye doctors were cited to be both crucial facilitators and barriers, respectively, of the utilization of LVS. Approximately 85% of Australian participants stated that having a referral or being provided with information about vision rehabilitation was a facilitating factor for the use of LVS,
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      whereas negative behaviours and attitudes of eye doctors have been found to be barriers.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      In Ontario, 64.7% of participants reported that lack of communication or poor communication contributed to the nonuse of LVS.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      Individuals with LV found that their eye doctor’s attitude ranged from providing information about their vision condition,
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      to referral for rehabilitation,
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      • Walter C.
      • Althouse R.
      • Humble H.
      • Leysa Mj
      • Odom Jv West
      Virginia survey of visual health: low vision and barriers to access.
      to providing little to no information,
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      to stating that nothing can be done.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      In studies by Mwilambwe et al.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      and by Overbury and Wittich,
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      there was a strong relationship between level of visual acuity and awareness of LVS, which implies that eye doctors are not informing patients about LVS until visual acuity has deteriorated to legal blindness. In both studies, more than 40% of patients with moderate visual impairment were not made aware of LVS. In Pollard et al.’s
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      Australian study, 3 of the 5 referred patients did not attend LVS because they were “waiting until their eye treatment was finished.” In Quebec, even when patients agreed to go and the administrative work for referral had been done (as part of the research study), 25% of these patients were still not referred because of a “negative choice of the ophthalmologist.”
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      We interpret this negative choice to mean that, despite the paperwork being done, the ophthalmologist still did not complete the referral.
      Lack of awareness. Seven studies included patients who were unaware of LVS.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      • Gold D.
      • Simson H.
      Identifying the needs of people in Canada who are blind or visually impaired: preliminary results of a nation-wide study.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      • Walter C.
      • Althouse R.
      • Humble H.
      • Leysa Mj
      • Odom Jv West
      Virginia survey of visual health: low vision and barriers to access.
      In a community-based Ontario study on elderly nonusers, 25 of 34 (73.5%) participants were unaware that LVS existed.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      Pollard et al.’s
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      study revealed that 57.5% (46/80) of participants in a hospital setting were never referred to LVS. Studies by Overbury and Wittich
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      and Mwilambwe et al.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      found that a poorer level of visual acuity was strongly associated with greater awareness. Those who used vision rehabilitation services had a longer duration of impairment than those who were unaware of the existence of the services.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      In addition, blacks, those with French as a first language, those who did not know the cause of their vision loss, and those with diagnoses other than age-related macular degeneration were significantly less aware of LVS.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      Location and transportation. Location and transportation were investigated in 7 of the 14 studies.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      • Gold D.
      • Simson H.
      Identifying the needs of people in Canada who are blind or visually impaired: preliminary results of a nation-wide study.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      • Walter C.
      • Althouse R.
      • Humble H.
      • Leysa Mj
      • Odom Jv West
      Virginia survey of visual health: low vision and barriers to access.
      Spafford et al.’s community-based study revealed that location (urban vs rural) was not an accessibility issue for nonusers of LVS,
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      nor was location a significant factor for the use of eye care services in Finland.
      • Laitinen A.
      • Koskinen S.
      • Rudanko S.
      • Martelin T.
      • Laatikainen L.
      • Aromaa A.
      Use of eye care services and need for assistance in the visually impaired.
      These findings are surprising, because some rehabilitation practitioners believed that a rural location can lead to poor access to LVS.
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      Alternatively, LVS being provided close to the referral site has been cited as the top factor facilitating a decision to visit the LV centre.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      Transportation may be an issue for people trying to access LVS. People with ocular disorders were 3 times more likely to give up driving and transportation may have become much more difficult if it involved interacting with others who had normal vision.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      Yet, in Australia, only 11.1% of people with vision impairment accessed volunteer transport services, although 92% lived within 50 km of the LV centre.
      • Matti A.I.
      • Pesudovs K.
      • Daly A.
      • Brown M.
      • Chen C.S.
      Access to low-vision rehabilitation services: barriers and enablers.
      The need to appear independent. The theme of independence was explored in 6 of the 14 studies.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      • Walter C.
      • Althouse R.
      • Humble H.
      • Leysa Mj
      • Odom Jv West
      Virginia survey of visual health: low vision and barriers to access.
      • Matti A.I.
      • Pesudovs K.
      • Daly A.
      • Brown M.
      • Chen C.S.
      Access to low-vision rehabilitation services: barriers and enablers.
      A U.S. population-based study found that there was an association between living alone and having an ocular disorder (i.e., individuals with ocular disorders were 1.65 times more likely to live alone than individuals with normal vision).
      • Walter C.
      • Althouse R.
      • Humble H.
      • Leysa Mj
      • Odom Jv West
      Virginia survey of visual health: low vision and barriers to access.
      Individuals with vision impairment who lived independently were also less likely to use LVSs.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      The need to appear to be independent seems to be a barrier to accessing LVSs
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      even though a main purpose of LV rehabilitation is to maintain independence. Despite awareness of the negative impact of low-vision upon their lives, many people avoided LV rehabilitation. They felt that the action of obtaining help threatened their sense of independence and normalcy,
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      and that revealing their visual impairment would lead to pity, stereotyping, and discrimination.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      Impact of societal view and influence of family and friends. The societal view impact and the influence of family and friends were explored in 6 of the 14 studies.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      • Matti A.I.
      • Pesudovs K.
      • Daly A.
      • Brown M.
      • Chen C.S.
      Access to low-vision rehabilitation services: barriers and enablers.
      The perceived negative view of people with vision impairment by society is attributable to general lack of knowledge and understanding of LV.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      People with LV view their relationship with family and friends as stressful.
      • Southall K.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: a qualitative approach.
      They find that people with normal vision do not believe that they have a visual impairment because they do not appear to be “blind.”
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      They do not wish to feel devalued in their community
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      and/or to be viewed or treated as a person with disability.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      Family and friends may have a substantial influence on the patient’s decision to access LV care. Matti et al.
      • Matti A.I.
      • Pesudovs K.
      • Daly A.
      • Brown M.
      • Chen C.S.
      Access to low-vision rehabilitation services: barriers and enablers.
      noted that family members made the decision for 6 of 8 candidates to decline LVS. Healthcare providers involved in LV care shared a common view that referral refusers tend to be non-English speakers because many of these patients receive strong family support and, therefore, may not feel the need for LVS.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      Interestingly, Spafford et al.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      found that “only those who had daily access to visually able and willing people, seemed prepared to ‘let’ someone else ‘manage’ critical tasks, but usually this delegation was seen as negatively affecting their quality of life.”
      Cost and income level. Five studies investigated cost or income level, or both, as a barrier.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • Gold D.
      • Simson H.
      Identifying the needs of people in Canada who are blind or visually impaired: preliminary results of a nation-wide study.
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      • Laitinen A.
      • Koskinen S.
      • Rudanko S.
      • Martelin T.
      • Laatikainen L.
      • Aromaa A.
      Use of eye care services and need for assistance in the visually impaired.
      • Walter C.
      • Althouse R.
      • Humble H.
      • Leysa Mj
      • Odom Jv West
      Virginia survey of visual health: low vision and barriers to access.
      Only 5.9% (2/34) of nonusers identified cost as a reason for not obtaining LVS in Spafford et al.’s study.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      This study, however, took place in Ontario, where most of the cost of devices is paid by the Assistive Devices Program. However, a Canadian National Institute for the Blind study suggested that the expense of vision aids was high and cost can be a prohibitive factor for users of vision rehabilitation services across Canada.
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      Studies in Canada, the United States, and Finland all showed that people with vision impairment are more likely to be unemployed or have a lower income than the general population.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      • Gold D.
      • Simson H.
      Identifying the needs of people in Canada who are blind or visually impaired: preliminary results of a nation-wide study.
      • Laitinen A.
      • Koskinen S.
      • Rudanko S.
      • Martelin T.
      • Laatikainen L.
      • Aromaa A.
      Use of eye care services and need for assistance in the visually impaired.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      The West Virginia study revealed that people with LV were 2.5 times more likely to have an income of less than $20,000 a year,
      • Walter C.
      • Althouse R.
      • Humble H.
      • Leysa Mj
      • Odom Jv West
      Virginia survey of visual health: low vision and barriers to access.
      and in 2005, 48% of Canadians with LV surveyed by Canadian National Institute for the Blind had income less than $20,000 a year.
      • Gold D.
      • Simson H.
      Identifying the needs of people in Canada who are blind or visually impaired: preliminary results of a nation-wide study.
      The mean income for Canadians with vision loss was $10,000 lower than Canadians without disabilities in 2001.

      Statistics Canada. Participation and activity limitation survey: Table 5.1 type of disability for adults and children with disabilities by sex, Canada, 2006. www.Statcan.Gc.Ca/Pub/89-628-X/2007003/T/4125078-eng.htm. Accessed November 30, 2009.

      Faq. National Coalition for Vision Health. www.visionhealth.ca/faq.htm. Accessed September 29, 2012.

      Comorbidities. In 5 of the 14 studies, the role of comorbidities was investigated.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      • Laitinen A.
      • Koskinen S.
      • Rudanko S.
      • Martelin T.
      • Laatikainen L.
      • Aromaa A.
      Use of eye care services and need for assistance in the visually impaired.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      • Matti A.I.
      • Pesudovs K.
      • Daly A.
      • Brown M.
      • Chen C.S.
      Access to low-vision rehabilitation services: barriers and enablers.
      In the studies by Mwilambwe et al.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      and Overbury and Wittich,
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      self-perception of health status was not associated with awareness of LV or participation in LVS. Alternatively, Matti et al.
      • Matti A.I.
      • Pesudovs K.
      • Daly A.
      • Brown M.
      • Chen C.S.
      Access to low-vision rehabilitation services: barriers and enablers.
      found major concurrent health problems to be among the most common reasons for declining LVS, and O’Connor et al.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      similarly found that poor health was a common reason for refusing referral, for nonattendance, or both. Only 1 study investigated the impact of cognitive ability and institutionalization. Both these factors were independently associated with lower uptake of LVSs.
      • Laitinen A.
      • Koskinen S.
      • Rudanko S.
      • Martelin T.
      • Laatikainen L.
      • Aromaa A.
      Use of eye care services and need for assistance in the visually impaired.
      Education level. The education level barrier was investigated in 3 of the 14 studies.
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      • Siemsen D.W.
      • Bergstrom A.R.
      • Hathaway J.C.
      Efficacy of a low vision patient consultation.
      Contradictory evidence exists whether education is associated with people’s awareness of LV. Overbury and Wittich
      • Overbury O.
      • Wittich W.
      Barriers to low vision rehabilitation: the Montreal Barriers Study.
      in the Montreal Barriers Study observed that more highly educated individuals are more likely to be aware of vision rehabilitation facilities and to use their services. Alternatively, the level of education was not significantly associated with awareness of LVS in Mwilambwe et al.’s study,
      • Mwilambwe A.
      • Wittich W.
      • Freeman E.E.
      Disparities in awareness and use of low-vision rehabilitation.
      a subset (n = 448) of the Montreal Barriers Study (n = 702), which may explain why there is an apparent contradiction in these articles. The Montreal Barriers Study, with the larger sample size, would be expected to give the more reliable result.
      Relative loss. Relative loss was investigated in 2 of the 14 studies.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      Patients with vision impairment may attempt to minimize the psychological impact of vision loss by framing other challenges or situations as being “worse off.” For example, they may compare themselves with others who are more unfortunate or compare their vision loss with other life losses (e.g., death of a spouse or comorbidities).
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      When vision loss is viewed as a “lesser loss,” the motivation to seek help may be lower.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.

      Discussion

      The goal of analyzing these studies was to understand the barriers that may prevent people from accessing LVSs. The results may be largely dependent on whether the participants were unaware of LVSs or had already accessed them. Investigating barriers to accessing LVSs of nonusers is crucial. Yet, only 2 studies focused on this group of individuals.
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      • MacLachlan J.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Klinger L.
      Low vision: a preliminary exploration of its impact on the daily lives of older women and perceived constraints to service use.
      Therefore, it is probable that the results of this review are biased toward users of LVSs. More studies on barriers for nonusers of LVSs are needed to improve service accessibility.
      Individuals with a longer duration of visual impairment may be more likely to be aware of LVSs, but only 1 study discussed the effect of this potential bias in their sample.
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      Gold et al.
      • Gold D.
      • Zuvela B.
      • Hodge W.g.
      Perspectives on low vision service in Canada: a pilot study.
      stated that “nearly 2/3 of participants [who were users of LVS] had been diagnosed with vision loss for more than 10 years.” The duration of vision loss can be an influential factor and it should be studied in future barrier studies.
      It is not clear how important the factor of location is in the update of LVSs, although it is generally expected that proximity would be important. Studies have not examined this factor in ways that can be directly compared. For example, urbanity was not significantly associated with the use of LVSs in 1 study,
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      whereas another study found that LV consultation immediately after a patient’s hospital visit and after a patient’s hospital visit,
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      and at a LVS location proximal to the hospital led to a high utilization rate for LVSs.
      • O’Connor P.M.
      • Mu L.C.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.
      People with vision impairment have lower levels of income,
      • Laitinen A.
      • Koskinen S.
      • Rudanko S.
      • Martelin T.
      • Laatikainen L.
      • Aromaa A.
      Use of eye care services and need for assistance in the visually impaired.
      although cost was not perceived as a barrier in 1 study of nonusers
      • Spafford M.M.
      • Rudman D.L.
      • Leipert B.D.
      • Klinger L.
      • Huot S.
      When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services.
      but was perceived to be a prohibitive factor for users of LVS.
      • Pollard T.L.
      • Simpson J.A.
      • Lamoureux E.L.
      • Keeffe J.E.
      Barriers to accessing low vision services.
      Some of these findings are the opposite of what one would predict. Possibly nonusers of LVSs were simply not aware of the cost of vision aids. Further studies are indicated to clarify these points. Only 1 study has investigated cognitive decline and institutionalization, which were found to be factors related to nonparticipation of LVS.
      • Laitinen A.
      • Koskinen S.
      • Rudanko S.
      • Martelin T.
      • Laatikainen L.
      • Aromaa A.
      Use of eye care services and need for assistance in the visually impaired.
      Further studies are required to confirm this.
      There is agreement among studies regarding certain barriers, despite the fact that different populations and research settings were included. Some of these barriers can be addressed straightforwardly by changes in approach by eye care professionals. Earlier and more ready referrals should be made, including patients of any ethnicity with early and moderate visual impairment and with eye disease caused by any untreatable condition (not only macular degeneration). Families of patients should also be counselled so that they understand the issues involved and will help to encourage the patient to avail themselves of resources, rather than the reverse. Better and more positive information can be given regarding what LVSs are and who can benefit. Changing societal attitudes may take longer, but it is possible with public education and it is necessary so that people are not only aware of LVSs but are willing to take advantage. People will not want to use LV aids when their visual disability is viewed negatively by society.
      This review describes the common barriers that prevent people with vision loss from accessing LVSs. The results illustrate the depth and complexity of health-related, psychological, societal, and institutional influences on an individual’s participation in vision rehabilitation services. The eye care provider can help to decrease these barriers by educating the patient in the early stages of vision loss regarding the effectiveness of LV rehabilitation and by making appropriate referrals to local LVSs.

      Disclosure

      The authors have no proprietary or commercial interest in any materials discussed in this article.

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