New York Vision Rehabilitation Association Memo in Support

We urge the NYS Assembly and Senate to pass licensure bill A. 5740 (Lupardo)/S. 3763 (Persaud) which provides for NYS Licensing of Vision Impairment Specialists (Orientation and Mobility Specialists, Vision Rehabilitation Therapists)

     Licensing of vision impairment specialists in NYS defines in statute the scope of practice and qualifications for these critical practice areas impacting the growing number of New Yorkers with blindness and severe visual impairments, and for the health, eye care, rehabilitation, and educational systems in New York State. The bill specifies the education and training requirements for the professionals that provide these essential services.

 

     Licensure recognizes orientation and mobility and vision rehabilitation therapy as services provided by trained professionals in the vision rehabilitation and education systems for people of all ages leading to greater independence, increased safety, and work. No other profession duplicates the unique specialized training of these professionals nor offers the full range, scope, and continuum of services for totally blind, legally blind and partially sighted New Yorkers. To assure quality services in New York State for an infant, pre-school or school aged child, adult, or older person diagnosed with blindness or a visual impairment, orientation and mobility and vision rehabilitation therapy need to be defined and provided by qualified licensed professionals. It is alarming that nationally less than 5% of people with vision loss that could benefit from training provided by vision impairment specialists ever receive the services (NEI, 2020 goals). Eye doctors are hesitant to refer patients to vision impairment specialists because the professionals are not licensed in New York State. Licensure will elevate awareness of these specialists among allied professionals and the general public and create a much-needed critical referral path.

 

     The NYS Medical Society, occupational therapists, optometrists and ophthalmologists in New York support this legislation. AARP, the American Council of the Blind, nonprofit vision rehabilitation agencies, professional orientation and mobility specialists and vision rehabilitation therapists and blind consumers support the Bill. Under federal law (Early Intervention and IDEA), children with blindness and/or severe vision loss that could benefit must be offered orientation and mobility training. Yet many parents are not aware of this service. If they are aware, they often have difficulty accessing the services in their community. Research shows that licensure encourages people to enter the field. Scholarships to study these professions are provided by the Veterans Administration, the NY State Education Department, nonprofit associations, vision rehabilitation agencies and consumer groups. Hunter College offers university training in orientation and mobility and vision rehabilitation therapy. The students are distressed to learn that their profession is not recognized in New York State.

 

     According to the 2019 American Community Survey of the United States Census, over 363,000 New Yorkers self-identify as blind or having functional vision loss. With the aging of the “Baby Boom” generation, age-related vision loss is on the rise. The need for vision impairment specialists is growing as babies survive with blindness and other disabilities and New Yorkers live longer.