The first meeting of the "Low Vision Interest Group" was in 1975 at the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB) conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This group was started by interested parties who obtained at least 30 names on a petition to start a new Division. The Board of Directors of AAWB responded by approving the development of the Division. The Division was interdisciplinary from its beginnings. Officers and early presenters at these meetings were professionals from the fields of orientation and mobility, optometry, rehabilitation teaching, special education for the visually impaired, and psychology. This special interest in low vision was a reflection of jobs being created for professionals in low vision education and rehabilitation in the Blind Rehabilitation Centers of the Veterans Administration, agencies for the blind, and in low vision clinics. The creation of these positions was a reflection of the understanding that using vision is a learned skill, and can therefore be taught, and that many people require education or rehabilitation intervention in order to learn how to use vision and devices successfully. These jobs in low vision education and rehabilitation required special knowledge and skills that were not taught in many of the personnel preparatory programs at that time. In-service training, self-study, on-the-job training, and observation in established low vision clinics were some of the ways that many vision education and rehabilitation professionals began to obtain their knowledge, and began to practice the craft of low vision. The burgeoning group of low vision education and rehabilitation professionals developed new assessment and intervention techniques. Professionals who practiced low vision education and rehabilitation continued to reflect the diversity of the many disciplines.
In 1980, the American Association of Workers for the Blind merged with the Association of Educators for the Visually Handicapped to become the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). In the late 1980s, the officers of Division VII (Low Vision) of AER began to discuss the development of a specific credential for the growing numbers of vision education and rehabilitation professionals who incorporated low vision into their practice.
To request the establishment of a new certification program, Division VII followed the procedures established by the Board of Directors of AER. The following were required:
The officers of Division VII began the process in l989 by conducting a survey of its members concerning the certification of professionals providing low vision services. Eighty-eight percent of those responding wanted AER to provide certification in low vision. The Division VII Certification Committee was established based on the strong input from Division VII members.
Because of the diversity of the professionals working in the area of low vision, the Division VII Chair and Division VII Certification Committee Chair decided that the Division VII Certification Committee should be comprised of people representative of the disciplines active in low vision. In l991, the committee was formed with members representing orientation and mobility, special education for the visually impaired, optometry, rehabilitation counseling, and rehabilitation teaching. Members were representative of the geography of the U.S. and Canada.
The work of the Division VII Certification Committee was to develop a Rationale for Certification, a Code of Ethics, Standards of Professional Behavior, a Low Vision Body of Knowledge, and Requirements for Initial and Renewable Certification. Drafts of these documents were developed in committee and presented to Division VII members during business meetings at international conferences and through the Division VII newsletter. After revisions, all documents were approved by the voting membership of Division VII by 1994.
The Division VII Certification Committee developed questions for the written examination and invited the community of low vision professionals in eye care, education, rehabilitation, and counseling to submit questions as well. Several forms of the exam were assembled from this bank of questions to correspond to the Body of Knowledge. Reliability and validity of the several forms was established and a biostatistician consulted on the evaluation of the written examination. An analysis of difficulty for individual items was conducted and this information was used to modify or eliminate certain questions from future revisions of the test. The reader is referred to Watson, Quillman, Flax, and Gerritsen (1999) for more details.
The Division VII Certification Committee Chair and the AER Certification Review Committee presented the package for Certification of Low Vision Therapists to the AER Board of Directors at their meeting in St. Louis in May l997. A vote was taken among board members and the certification was approved.
The first low vision therapist certificates were issued in September of 1997 to those individuals who received passing scores during the reliability and validity study and had completed the application process. In the autumn of 1997, the first approved low vision therapist certification examinations were given. Those who received passing scores and completed the application process were certified in December of 1997.
In l998, the formation of a Division VII Ethics Committee was voted upon and passed by the Division. A chair of that committee was appointed. The Chair of the Division and the Chair of the Ethics Committee wrote an Ethics Violation Mediation Policy. This policy was discussed and approved at the Business meeting of Division VII during the AER International Conference in July, l998.
In January 2000, the Academy for the Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals was established as an independent and autonomous legal certification body. The certification of low vision therapists was transferred from AER to the Academy on December 2, 2000.
In 2004, ACVREP developed and beta tested a new Low Vision Therapy exam. The first new exam was administered in 2005.