Consumer Eligibility & Prioritization

Consumer Eligibility & Prioritization

Consumer Eligibility

Individuals must be age 55 or older and without employment goals to qualify for OIB services. 


  • individuals who are new to vision loss may assume they are not able to work.
  • OIB services may provide individuals with the skills and confidence they need to consider employment.

It is good practice to ask individuals to consider vocational rehabilitation services regardless of their age.  Practice has shown that many older adults are interested in full or part-time employment.

Listen to a 20-minute podcast:

VRTAC-QM Manager Minute: What important question is VR missing when working with our Older Blind and Visually Impaired IL customers?

“Why not ask the Older Individuals who are Blind right up front if they want to work?" Are we missing the boat with these talented individuals who are commonly not given the option for VR services that can benefit them? Whether it’s training, job development and placement, or job retention, VR services, in conjunction with IL services, can lead to successful employment outcomes for Older Individuals who are Blind and contribute to their sense of purpose and meaning.


Prioritizing Consumers

When new consumers present with complex needs and safety concerns, “First come, first serve” as a policy may not be best practice.  It is important for administrative policies to be flexible, so that when safety concerns are identified, that staff can prioritize services to those individuals. 

It is helpful to have a written policy to prioritize services to consumers based upon one or a combination of factors, including but not limited to:
• Safety concerns
• Potential imminent institutionalization
• Severity of visual impairment
• Availability of personal support
• Transition in living conditions (nursing home/personal
care, adult children)
• Time waiting for services 

Below is a sample list of questions, based on the Best Practices, which may assist in guiding priority of when a consumer is seen upon referral.
These questions (or similar questions) can be asked by telephone when a referring organization/person contacts the agency for services or put directly on the intake application. 

Sample Questions to Guide Prioritization of Consumers Upon Referral

Instructions: Please ask the referral source about the items below to best determine the Order of Selection. Check all that apply to the individual being referred for services. 

(The higher the number of checked items, the higher a priority it is for the consumer to receive services in a timely fashion for their health and safety.)

__Totally or legally blind. (Lives alone, not in assistive living or
nursing home.)
__Has no home care agency support services, friends and/or
family assisting on a regular basis
__Has fallen recently or reduces walking due to fear of falling
__Unable to safely prepare meals
__Unable to find transportation to medical care
__Difficulty complying with medication regime
__ Is responsible for daily care of another such as a spouse with
significant health problems or a minor child 

Best Practices  

The program specifies an appropriate window for initial contact with consumers, and contacts are made within that timeframe. There is no waiting list for first contact. Information and referral services and collection of intake information may be completed by telephone. The program manager will ensure that the OIB program provides services in a timely way. 

When scheduling visits, agencies will have a written policy to prioritize services to consumers based upon one or a combination of factors, including but not limited to:  

  • Safety concerns 
  • Potential imminent institutionalization 
  • Severity of visual impairment 
  • Availability of personal support 
  • Transition in living conditions (nursing home/personal care, adult children)  
  • Time waiting for services 

Consumers with vision loss who are older may learn better when instruction is provided in short, frequent lessons. Consequently, multiple instructional sessions will be scheduled in a short time span. While consumers wait for their instructional services to begin, they will receive information and referral services that include periodic contact to address emerging concerns. 

Acceptable Practices

Any agency that does not implement best practices will have a plan in place to move toward best practices that includes an expeditious timetable and benchmarks. 

Unacceptable Practices

It is unacceptable to have a waiting list for first contact. It is unacceptable to have long waiting times for services. It is unacceptable to have no policy for prioritizing referrals. It is unacceptable to prioritize referrals or to discriminate based upon location (far rural areas seen last), socio-economic status, complexity of case, or cultural barriers. 

Clarifying Comments

Although there may not be an official waiting list, consumers sometimes wait long periods for all or some services, such as O&M, or they wait long periods between instructional visits. This is contrary to how services should be provided to older adults. Programs balance quality and quantity of instructional time and services. Prioritizing consumers over prioritizing services is preferred. Have policies/procedures in place to guide professionals in prioritizing their caseloads. Professionals should participate in developing the prioritization protocol.  

To serve new consumers in a timely way, older cases must be closed. Cases should not remain open for extended periods unless that time is instructionally necessary. An estimate for case closure should be made at assessment and revised as needed.