Vision 2020 Australia tells NDIS inquiry future of blind and vision impaired is in the dark

The safety and independence of some of Australia’s most vulnerable people may be at risk under the current NDIS draft legislation including people with vision loss and seniors.

Vision 2020 Australia, the peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, will appear first at the National Disability Insurance Scheme public hearing tomorrow in Melbourne urging changes to ensure people with vision loss are not left out.

Vision 2020 Australia Low Vision and Rehabilitation Committee Chair, Jonathan Jackson, who will be representing the eye health and vision care sector, said he would be seeking assurances from the NDIS agency that a person’s functional needs would not be determined solely on the basis of a medical diagnosis of legal blindness or on the basis of a clinical assessment involving one specific measurement of vision.

“It is not clear in the draft NDIS Bill what level of blindness would be required by the agency to become eligible for services,” Dr Jackson said.

“It would not be fair if people with low vision were unable to access individual support,” he said.

“Vision loss can be very confronting which is why having access to timely support, including early intervention, equips people to adjust emotionally, get the aids and equipment they need, and learn new skills to maintain their independence.”

Dr Jackson also said the issue of seniors with loss of vision being left without adequate support was causing considerable concern and needed to be addressed.

“Older Australians have the right to services and support to help them cope with the impact of blindness on their lives, but right now neither the NDIS nor the aged reforms cover them.”

“Blindness and vision loss affects Australian seniors at much higher rates than young people. The older you are, the more likely you are to be affected,” Dr Jackson said.

“We know 65 per cent of people with blindness or functional vision loss are aged over 65 years of age. Without support, it is more likely that seniors will find it difficult to maintain their safety and independence, stay engaged in the community, and continue to live healthy and active lifestyles,” he said.

“While the eye health sector remains committed and engaged in the process of helping the NDIS become a reality, the arbitrary line in the sand which cuts off those aged 65 plus, will mean parents and grandparents and other vulnerable older people in society risk missing out on essential services.”

Vision 2020 Australia will be recommending the creation of an independent middle path such as a Disability Services Commission to review decisions and resolve complaints in a way that is truly independent and accessible.

“We want parliamentarians to heed our considered recommendations.  If implemented they will help ensure a fairer and more inclusive system of support to people with a disability including those who are blind or who have functional vision loss,” Dr Jackson said.