Understanding Low Vision


Understanding Low Vision: 2023 Update

What’s written below is the original text from the website I set up in 2018. The site was aimed at helping people with vision impairments by providing vision professionals with a better understanding of the needs of their patients with vision impairments.

I’ve come to realise that there is a need to make this information more directly accessible to everyone. The broader public need to be able to understand low vision. Whether it’s for helping themselves or for helping a friend or family member, knowledge is power. So I’m undertaking a major renovation and expansion of the whole site, writing most of the content with a general audience in mind.

That content will be useful for vision professionals as well, but the final stage will be to rework the vision professionals’ section as well, to develop a solid educational framework more tightly integrated into the general section. In this way, I hope to help people with low vision both directly (in helping them understand their impairment) and indirectly (by increasing the knowledge and skill of the vision professionals that look after them).

For the moment, the site has two separate series of articles. One (the newer pages) for the general reader, and one (the older pages) for vision professionals. They are both open to all for reading, but the vision professionals’ section has a level of assumed knowledge that might leave the general reader a bit perplexed.

I’d suggest that all readers read through the general section first, and then vision professionals should go on to read their section as well after that.

Welcome. I’m Paul Graveson, an optometrist in Hobart, Tasmania. I’ve worked in the Low Vision Clinic of the Royal Hobart Hospital for many years. In that time, I’ve learnt a few things, which I’d like to share with others who work with the visually impaired.

This site is intended as a resource for optometrists who have an interest in low vision. It comprises a series of articles, the titles of which all appear in the menu to the side. You can read them in whatever order you like, but it will all make a lot more sense if you read them in the numbered order.

Assumed Knowledge

I’m assuming people reading this already have a knowledge of basic low vision theory at optometry graduate level. Low vision might be taught differently nowadays, so all this stuff might be old news to you. If so, great! But I suspect most people will find at least something they didn’t already know.

I’d like to make clear that it’s also possible that I got taught some of this at optometry school, and I just didn’t understand it, or I missed that lecture, or I was daydreaming instead. When I was an undergrad I had no intention of continuing to do low vision work, and if you’d told me that’s what I’d mostly end up doing I would have laughed at you. Anyway, nothing in this site is meant to imply that my lecturers were in any way deficient in their teaching — I was lucky enough to be taught by Rob Jacobs and Peter Herse at the University of Auckland, who were excellent. If there are any fundamental deficiencies in my understanding of low vision, that is my fault alone.


I’d like to acknowledge the support of the Tasmanian Optometric Fund (TOF). Much of what’s on this site has stemmed from my experience of lecturing at the yearly Tasmanian state optometry congress (known as the Tasmanian Lifestyle Congress). The time taken to research some of those talks has been partially funded by the TOF, and they were kind enough to give me a grant to cover at least some of my time spent pulling it all together into a website.

I’d also like to acknowledge my colleagues at the Royal Hobart Hospital Lions Low Vision Clinic, where I’ve worked since Brian Sims retired in 2000. My fellow optometrists Andrew Maver and Rebecca Davis, and clinic co-ordinators Maryann O’Regan, Rose Gregory and Naomi Gilson have all been very supportive of my work, and willing to put up with my perhaps somewhat crackpot notions at times. And of course to Brian Sims himself, who ‘volunteered’ me to take over his position at the LLVC — he saw some potential in me that I didn’t see myself until much later. Also thanks to Rob Jacobs and Peter Herse, who managed to teach me low vision even though I thought I was never going to pick up a magnifier again. I feel the saying about us all standing on the shoulder of giants is very apt.

And of course, my thanks to my family, most especially to my wife, Tracey Grady, whose graphic design skills got me through all sorts of rough patches during the making of this website, and whose support I value beyond anything.