The Visual Acuity Impairment Survey (VAIS) pilot study was carried out in three large metropolitan areas of the United States to determine whether it would be feasible to conduct a large two-stage survey of the prevalence of visual acuity impairment and its causes. The study was conducted in conjunction with the Health Interview Survey (HIS), performed by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau. In the first stage, a simple vision screening test was administered to 1,868 adults in their homes by specially trained Census Bureau interviewers. All those who failed the test, and a sample of those who passed it, were invited to a local clinic for a check on the accuracy of the screen and a detailed eye examination to establish the cause of the impairment. About 89 per cent of the HIS interviewees took the vision screening test in the home and agreed to have the results released, making it possible for the clinic to invite them for an examination. The principal obstacle to the success of the feasibility study was a low rate (less than 50 per cent) of participation in the clinic examination by the target population. Such low participation would leave the survey open to a serious question about its representativeness. The methods and findings of the pilot study are presented because the lessons may be of value to those attempting similar studies in the future. Suggestions are made for methodological modifications that may enhance the chances for success.