Eligibility & EVAC

The Educational Vision Assessment Clinic (EVAC)

Students with vision impairments may be eligible to receive a range of additional educational supports throughout their schooling in Victoria.

Eligibility for additional support is established at the Educational Vision Assessment Clinic (EVAC), run jointly by the Education Department and the Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital.

EVAC is staffed by a team of specialists including a Paediatric Ophthalmologist, Orthoptist, Education Officers (specialist educators in vision impairment) and an Educational Psychologist.

The purpose of EVAC is to identify students who have a significant vision loss requiring adjustments to the delivery of educational curriculum, additional teaching support and/or the provision of learning materials in an accessible format, so they can access and participate in education on the same basis as their sighted peers.

Students attending state, Catholic and independent schools may be referred to EVAC.

There is no cost to either the family or the school for this assessment.

Eligibility

A student is eligible for additional support due to vision impairment if she/he has sufficiently low vision to be regarded as:

  • partially sighted – distance vision with glasses, if needed, worse than 6/18 and/or visual field reduction to less than 20 degrees or
  • legally blind – distance vision with glasses, if needed, worse than 6/60 and/or visual field reduction to less than 10 degrees

Once a child has been found eligible for additional support, an Education Officer from EVAC will visit the student at school and conduct a functional vision assessment. A comprehensive report provides information about the student’s functional vision in the school environment.

The student may also be eligible for other support or services. In Department schools, this includes:

  • support from the Statewide Vision Resource Centre (SVRC) such as professional development and support for schools and families, provision of learning materials in alternative format, access to the technology lending library, specialist educational programs
  • support from a Visiting Teacher
  • Program for Students with Disabilities (for students who are legally blind)
  • Accessible Buildings Program
  • Equipment Grants (for students who are partially sighted)

Referral to EVAC

Referrals can be made by Ophthalmologists, Early Childhood Educators, School Nurses, Principals, parent/carers or Teachers.

Download the EVAC Referral form (docx) here.

Prior to attending EVAC, children should have been seen by their own Ophthalmologist within the past 12 months. Attendance at EVAC does not replace treatment, prescriptions and ongoing management of the child’s vision.

The first step is attendance at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. There you will be seen by Paediatric Ophthalmologist, Orthoptist, Education Officers and an Educational Psychologist. Sometimes student Ophthalmologists (Registrars) also come to observe EVAC as part of their course.

The EVAC team aims to get as much information as possible about your child’s vision and how it is likely to affect them educationally.

Tests generally include distance vision acuity using an eye chart (reading or matching letters or pictures), reading near print sizes, looking at eye movements, checking spectacle prescriptions, field tests and examination of eye health. In order to examine the health of the eye, eye drops usually need to be administered to dilate the pupil. It is helpful to bring a hat and/or sunglasses because this dilation will make your child’s eyes more light sensitive for the remainder of the day.

Because the Education Officers are involved in the assessment, they can take accurate and current information to the school when they follow up the children. This informs their assessment of the functional vision of the children and forms the basis of their recommendations about adjustments required in schools.

The majority of referrals come from Vision Australia’s Early Childhood Educators who refer children in the year prior to starting school. We find that approximately one third of children are found to have vision which has improved to a level which makes them no longer eligible for additional support when they start school. There are several reasons for this. At this stage of their development many children are much better able to respond to tests involving letters or even pictures, and this allows for more reliable and accurate test results. At EVAC, we also try to encourage cooperation and allow children sufficient time to respond reliably to the testing, rather than hurrying them through a clinical test. Also, there are several congenital vision impairments which are known to improve as children get older.

An assessment from EVAC that a child is ‘ineligible for support’ is good news because it indicates that the child’s vision has improved or their ability to be tested has improved. A child cannot test better than their vision will allow. They can always test worse if they choose not to cooperate, or don’t understand the task.

Eligibility for support is based on the World Health Organisation’s criteria, which defines three ‘ranges’ of vision. All measurements are with both eyes open and wearing the best spectacle correction possible. The ‘normal’ range is between 6/6 and 6/18 acuity. The ‘partially sighted’ range is from worse than 6/18 to 6/60. The ‘legally blind’ range is from worse than 6/60 to ‘no light perception’. These categories can also be determined by fields of view, regardless of the acuity. A child with a field of view less than 20º is in the ‘partially sighted’ range. A child with a field of view of less than 10º is considered legally blind.

The World Health Organisation considers that a child with vision in the normal range should not require ongoing support or major modifications to access their education. This is based on research.

Regardless of the outcome at the EVAC assessment, the Education Officers will make contact with the child’s school to explain the outcomes and implications of the clinic and discuss concerns about how your child will cope at school.

In order for your child to be assessed by EVAC there are several steps as follows:

  1. Complete the EVAC Application Form, taking care to sign and date all relevant sections.
  2. The EVAC team, including the Paediatric Ophthalmologist, will review the information provided by your child’s ophthalmologist
  3. You will be offered an EVAC appointment if your child’s vision, as stated by your ophthalmologist, is significantly reduced.
  4. At EVAC, your child will be assessed by an Orthoptist, and a Paediatric Ophthalmologist and you will have the opportunity to meet with an Educational Psychologist and two Education Officers. The Psychologist is available to assist you in understanding this process and to discuss any educational or behavioural concerns you have regarding your child and their engagement in their education. The role of the Education Officers is to observe the clinical assessment, support this assessment with age appropriate suggestions and to identify the educational implications of your child’s vision.
  5. If your child’s vision is found to be within the partially sighted or legally blind range, one of the Education Officers will attend the child’s school to perform a functional vision assessment.
  6. A comprehensive report will prepared by the Education Officer and is generally sent to you for your input prior it being sent to the child’s school and Visiting Teacher Service Leadership Team. The report of the clinical assessment is also available to you and any professional you nominate.

EVAC is conducted on a Wednesday morning at
The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital
4th Floor of the Smorgan Family Wing
32 Gisborne Street
East Melbourne

For further information please phone (03) 9841 0807

Annette Godfrey-Magee
0419 157 748
godfrey-magee.annette.a@edumail.vic.gov.au

Lee Clarke
0402 041 166
Email Lee Clarke

Deb Davidson
0438 681 907
Email Deb Davidson