objective: to assess the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy and to evaluate the management of patients with visual disabilities attending at the cepre rehabilitation program of university of campinas. methods: a retrospective study was carried out based on medical records of patients with visual disabilities attending a vision rehabilitation program. the following variables were studied: gender, age, marital status, level of schooling, social security status, origin, type and cause of visual disability and vision rehabilitation actions. results: the sample consisted of 155 patients, 55.5% males, aged between 12 and 88 years, mean age 41 years old, 34.8% were blind and 65.2% with low vision disability. of those blind patients, 81.8% reported acquired blindness, and the leading cause was diabetic retinopathy (33.3%), followed by glaucoma (16.6%), and retinal detachment (15.0%). of those patients with low vision disability, 14.9% had diabetic retinopathy, 14.9% hereditary syndromes, and 10.9% age-related macular degeneration. vision rehabilitation therapy included interdisciplinary team consultations helping patients go through the mourning process for the loss or impairment of vision, and promoting the enhancement of their skills for performing activities of daily living independently. the management of patients with low vision was also focused on vision rehabilitation. conclusion: the health of the eyes of patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes is at risk. the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was found to be a cause for visual disability, suggesting the need to assess these patients' access to health care and rehabilitation and promote health education for changing habits and improving quality of life.