To investigate evidence-based visual field size criteria for referral of low-vision (LV) patients for mobility rehabilitation.
One hundred and nine participants with LV and 41 age-matched participants with normal sight (NS) were recruited. The LV group was heterogeneous with diverse causes of visual impairment. We measured binocular kinetic visual fields with the Humphrey Field Analyzer and mobility performance on an obstacle-rich, indoor course. Mobility was assessed as percent preferred walking speed (PPWS) and number of obstacle-contact errors. The weighted kappa coefficient of association (κr) was used to discriminate LV participants with both unsafe and inefficient mobility from those with adequate mobility on the basis of their visual field size for the full sample and for subgroups according to type of visual field loss and whether or not the participants had previously received orientation and mobility training.
LV participants with both PPWS <38% and errors >6 on our course were classified as having inadequate (inefficient and unsafe) mobility compared with NS participants. Mobility appeared to be first compromised when the visual field was less than about 1.2 steradians (sr; solid angle of a circular visual field of about 70° diameter). Visual fields <0.23 and 0.63 sr (31 to 52° diameter) discriminated patients with at-risk mobility for the full sample and across the two subgroups. A visual field of 0.05 sr (15° diameter) discriminated those with critical mobility.
Our study suggests that: practitioners should be alert to potential mobility difficulties when the visual field is less than about 1.2 sr (70° diameter); assessment for mobility rehabilitation may be warranted when the visual field is constricted to about 0.23 to 0.63 sr (31 to 52° diameter) depending on the nature of their visual field loss and previous history (at risk); and mobility rehabilitation should be conducted before the visual field is constricted to 0.05 sr (15° diameter; critical).