Going the extra mile for vision

Athletes with intellectual disabilities had their sight tested at a Special Olympics event in Sheffield


As well as trialling their speed and strength on the track, athletes had their vision tested during the Special Olympics Great Britain National Summer Games in Sheffield (7–12 August).

The Games are the largest multi-sports event for people with intellectual disabilities in Britain in 2017. Around 2600 athletes, 800 coaches, 1000 volunteers, and 200 officials are involved in the four-day competition.

A free vision screening event gave athletes the opportunity to have their sight tested, and receive a pair of spectacles if needed. Those who did not require spectacles were given a free pair of sunglasses.

Optometrist and AOP Board member, Gordon Ilett, who volunteered at the event, highlighted to OT  that people with learning disabilities faced challenges accessing eye care both in the UK and worldwide.

The Summer Games vision screening programme gave eye care professionals experience testing patients with learning disabilities while also encouraging those patients to attend regular eye examinations when they went back to their communities, Mr Illett explained.

“We need to get the message out to professionals that actually examining people with learning disabilities is not difficult – it’s something that is necessary and it is very, very rewarding,” he elaborated.

As well as raising awareness that people with intellectual disabilities can have their vision tested and should attend regular sight checks, vision screening organiser, Caroline Hurst, stressed that people with intellectual disabilities should wear their spectacles once they receive a prescription.

“We see a number of athletes who do have a pair of glasses that are just in a drawer at home,” she said.

Ned Saunders, a dispensing optician for SeeAbility, shared with OT  that the event illustrated how many people are missing out on community eye care.

“There are quite a few people here who have surprising prescriptions who haven’t previously been tested,” he added.

A group of around 20 optometry students were involved with vision screening at the Games.

Student optometrist, Ruhkan Avcil, told OT  that she appreciated the opportunity to work with experienced optometrists.

“It’s great to help people who are doing such an inspirational thing,” she emphasised.

Around 500 athletes had their vision tested during the four-day event.