A systems model for low vision rehabilitation. II. Measurement of vision disabilities

Robert W. Massof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Background. This study presents and tests a method of measuring vision disabilities. Based on the model presented in the first paper of this series, cognitive and motor activities ("tasks") are organized in a hierarchy that identifies the tasks' behavioral goals (purposes) and the social objectives the goals serve. Two latent variables important to the definition of vision disability are identified: "value of living independently" and "visual ability for independent living." The basic principles of the Rasch measurement model are reviewed, and Rasch models are used to measure the two variables that define vision disability. The need for rehabilitation to meet each goal is represented by "rehabilitative demand," a mathematical function of the measurements made of the value and difficulty of achieving each goal independently. Methods. Over 400 patients with low vision rated both the importance and difficulty of independently achieving each of 24 goals. Rasch analysis was used to derive interval measures of the social value of each goal, the value that individual patients placed on each goal relative to the derived social definition of independence, the visual ability required to achieve each goal without help, and the visual ability of individual patients to live independently. A rehabilitative demand function was ascertained from the judgments of 17 AAO Diplomates in Low Vision through triadic comparisons and multidimensional scaling. Results. Self-care had the greatest "social value" for independence; performing music had the least. Recreational reading required the greatest "visual ability" to accomplish independently; self-care required the least. Rehabilitative demand was linear with value and nonmonotonic with difficulty. Conclusions. Rehabilitative demand, an algorithm for defining vision disability, incorporates interval measures of visual ability and the value of independent living estimated from patient-based assessments, a social scale of the value of activities relative to independent living, and a consensus opinion of low vision experts on the prioritization of the need for rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-375
Number of pages27
JournalOptometry and Vision Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Low vision rehabilitation
  • Patient-based assessment
  • Rasch analysis
  • Vision disability
  • outcome measure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Optometry


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