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“I’m not going to receive my honours and take it easy”

SeeAbility eye care and vision development officer, Scott Watkin, was recognised as a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year’s honours list. He talks to OT  about working to get eye care professionals to make adjustments for people with learning disabilities

Scott Watkin

Congratulations – how does it feel to be recognised for your services to people with learning disabilities?

I never thought I’d be recognised in this way, it’s a really big honour. It sends a message to all the eye care professionals that I work with – they need to know how important eye care is for people with disabilities.

Looking back over the past year, what are the highlights up to now?

The honour sort of came from nowhere. I started to get recognised nationally in 2017 for my work in ensuring people with disabilities receive good eye care. I feel like I’ve been respected for sharing my experiences and talking about it. The biggest highlight was being nominated for a National Learning Disability Award and then winning it.

During your career, what would you note as the important milestones in the development of services for people with learning disabilities?

It all began with co-chairing the learning disability partnership board on the Isle of Wight, and helping to restructure that. Then my work with the Department of Health as co-national director for learning disabilities. We were able to help change and talk to leaders within the sector around how learning disability services need to be done differently.

Coming to SeeAbility was an important milestone, they supported me with my eyes and vision and then took me on in my role to help others get the right eye care.

Now I’m sitting on the board of Learning Disability England to try and make sure people with a learning disability have a voice. People with learning disabilities need the same access to services as everybody else.

"I'm going to carry on fighting for people with learning disabilities. I'm not going to receive my honours and take it easy. There's too much work to do"

Can you tell me about your role with SeeAbility?

I’m an eye care and vision development officer and I make sure people with learning disabilities get good eye care. I travel around the country giving training sessions to people with learning disabilities and their carers. We lobby Government to make sure they understand that eye care for people with learning disabilities is really important.

Why is the work and support offered important?

People with learning disabilities are much more likely to have sight problems than other people. Not only that, but they are the least likely to get the eye care they need. We are working so that eye care professionals make reasonable adjustments, but what we really need is a national eye care pathway so that everyone with a disability can access a sight test.

What are the current aims of Learning Disability England?

It’s about setting the direction of learning disabilities in England. Lobbying Government and challenging the social care cuts. I need to make sure we do what we say we are going to do.

You also lecture at the University of Hertfordshire – what are some of the topics that you cover?

I mainly focus on eye care and vision. I talk about what it’s like having a learning disability and how learning disability nurses can go to advocacy groups and talk to people with learning disabilities, listening to the challenges that people face. I challenge students on what they need to do to make sure they treat people with learning disabilities with equal rights.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to carry on and keep fighting for people with learning disabilities. I’m not going to receive my honours and take it easy. There’s too much work to do.