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Low Vision Clinic

What is Low Vision?

Low vision is the condition of having reduced vision that is not correctable by normal means such as eyeglasses or contact lenses. Common causes of low vision are macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetes and other eye diseases.

Low vision may happen at any stage of life from newborns to retirees. Low vision is not total blindness, although the low vision patient may be labeled as “blind” by people around them.

What is Legal Blindness?

To be legally blind a person must have lost vision to the level of 20/200 or worse with their best eyeglasses or contact lenses or they must have a visual field (peripheral vision) loss to 20 degrees or less. Legal blindness often causes a severe restriction of daily activities such as reading the newspaper, watching television or preparing a meal.

People with vision impairments who are not legally blind may still suffer from these same life-altering problems. If your vision is less than 20/40 you cannot legally drive a car in Idaho.

What is Low Vision Rehabilitation?

Many people with low vision complain of loss of independence and self-worth. There is now hope! Low vision rehabilitation is the process of training the person with a visual impairment to make use of their remaining vision to perform those tasks which are often thought to be lost forever.

What are Low Vision Aids?

The use of specialized devices such as magnifiers, telescopes, or stronger reading glasses allow many patients to return to daily activities like reading their mail or the newspaper and watching their favorite TV show. There are even video magnifiers that attach to a TV set to give large amounts of magnification for tasks like school work or signing checks.

What is the Low Vision Clinic?

The Low Vision Clinic at the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 341 West Washington Street, Boise, Idaho, is where you receive low vision evaluation and rehabilitation.

Dr. Dwight Hansen and ICBVI staff are trained in the latest techniques to help you return to activities of life that you have missed since your vision loss. It may be as simple as training a person with macular degeneration to look slightly to the side when talking with someone to see their face or it may be more complex, such as a bioptic telescope to return to legal driving.  To achieve your vision goals, you will start with a low vision evaluation.

What is the Low Vision Evaluation?

The low vision evaluation consists of an examination by Dr. Hansen followed by consultation with one of our equipment technicians to demonstrate the low vision devices and techniques. During the low vision examination, Dr. Hansen may administer a variety of tests. These tests are often more time consuming than a standard eye exam. The initial evaluation may take approximately 1 hour.

During your appointment, Dr. Hansen will work with you identifying treatment options, which may include:

  • Optical devices
    • Devices that will help you adapt, such as magnifiers, telephones or closed-circuit televisions, spectacle microscopes, and telescopes which will improve your ability to see detail (read or watch TV) but may require you to hold material close to your eyes or see through only a small field of view.
  • Techniques
    • Techniques that will help you utilize your remaining vision. There are many eye movements that will help you use your remaining vision more efficiently.
  • Environmental modifications
    • Modifications to maximize your remaining vision. These include better lighting for high contrast and adaptive non-optical devices such as large-print calendars, address books, check registers, and talking watches.

How do I prepare for a Low Vision Evaluation?

Please Call the Low Vision Clinic at 208-639-8381 when you are ready to schedule an evaluation. Our clinic staff will conduct an in-take survey over the phone to gather information in preparation for the appointment. During the call, you will be advised about insurance billing, driving directions, items to bring to your appointment, and other general clinic information. We are also available to answer any questions you may have at this time. Once the appointment is scheduled, we will send you a New Patient Packet prior to your appointment.

Where is the Low Vision Clinic located?

The Low Vision Clinic is located in the basement of the Idaho Commission for the Blind building in downtown Boise at 341 West Washington Street on the southeast corner of 4th and Washington. The 4 story red brick building is one block north of State Street in the vicinity of the State Capitol building, the VA Hospital, and St. Luke’s Hospital. To access the Low Vision Clinic, use the basement entrance on Washington Street.

ICBVI Low Vision Clinic Map

Take I84 toward Boise. As you come into Boise, stay left on I84 to take the Boise City Center Connector to the center of downtown Boise. The I84 Connector becomes Myrtle Street. Stay on Myrtle and continue past Capitol Boulevard. Turn left onto 5th Street. Drive eight blocks until you reach Washington Street. Turn right onto Washington Street. Go one block to 4th Street. The Commission for the Blind is on the right at the corner of 4th and Washington.

Take I84 into Boise. Take the Broadway exit north toward Boise State University. Stay on Broadway and continue past BSU. Turn left onto State Street. Go four blocks and turn right onto 4th Street. The Commission for the Blind is on the right at the corner of 4th and Washington. 

If you have a handicapped permit, you may park in the handicapped spaces in the parking lot next to our building. We also have one designated parking space for our Low Vision Clinic which is indicated by a sign on the building. Otherwise, parking is available only on the street. Street parking is both metered ($1.00 per hour) and non-metered (free). With a handicapped permit, all street parking is free. 

You may temporarily park in the loading zone directly in front of the Commission for the Blind building on Washington street.  Adjacent to the loading zone area is the direct entrance into the basement with a wheelchair ramp to facilitate easy access into the clinic.

What is the cost of a Low Vision Evaluation?

Please contact our office for current clinic fees. If you are covered by Medicare and/or another major medical insurance policy, we will submit an insurance claim on your behalf. However, the clinic cannot guarantee insurance coverage. Coverage is determined by individual policy terms. To verify your policy’s coverage, you are advised to contact your insurance provider directly prior to the scheduled appointment. If one or more vision aids are recommended by Dr. Hansen, these vision aids typically are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans. You should expect to pay out of pocket for these devices. Payment must be received prior to ordering or purchasing the device(s).

How long does the Low Vision Rehabilitation Process take?

Low vision rehabilitation is a continuous process. What works for you today may not work for you in six months. The effectiveness of low vision aid devices and techniques will depend on the stability of your eye condition. Most importantly, remember that low vision rehabilitation will not restore your sight but will help you use your remaining vision to its fullest potential. After your initial evaluation appointment, we may need to schedule a follow-up visit to make sure you are reaching your visual goals and the devices are working effectively. It will require some hard work on your part so don’t be disappointed if it takes time to become efficient using low vision aids. We are here to assist you throughout this process.

For more information or to set up an appointment, contact Lynn Vaughan, Low Vision Clinic Office Manager, at (208) 639-8381 or email at

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