Consecutive patients (n = 215) who were referred to optometric (55%) or multidisciplinary (45%) low-vision services and above 50 years of age were recruited from four hospitals in the Netherlands. They completed two vision-related quality of life questionnaires, the Vision Quality of Life Core Measure (VCM1) and the Low Vision Quality of Life Questionnaire (LVQOL), before their first visit with low-vision services and 1 year later. At follow-up, patients referred to multidisciplinary low-vision services had lower scores on the mobility subscale of the LVQOL than patients referred to optometric low-vision services [5.3 points; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.2-10.5]. Paired sample t-tests for the two groups of patients taken together show improvement for the VCM1 (3.1 points; 95% CI: 0.6-5.6) and deterioration for the basic aspects of vision (3.5 points; 95% CI: 1.1-5.9) and the mobility (6.6 points; 95% CI: 3.7-9.5) subscales of the LVQOL. In conclusion, people referred to optometric services showed less deterioration in mobility than those referred to multidisciplinary services. No differences were observed for any of the other subscales of the LVQOL and the VCM1. Future research in this field should include randomized controlled designs comparing low-vision services with no treatment or placebo. © 2006 The College of Optometrists.