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“For many people with learning disabilities this is a great step forward”

SeeAbility and Beyond Words have launched a picture book that aims to raise awareness of the importance of eye health

05 Sep 2019 by Selina Powell

The importance of eye health is showcased in a new book that was launched by SeeAbility and Beyond Words in an event on Wednesday at the House of Lords (3 September).

As well as celebrating the publication of Looking After My Eyes, the event marked Beyond Words becoming a registered charity and recognised its 30-year anniversary.

Speaking with OT at the event, SeeAbility’s head of engagement Scott Watkin explained that the aspiration behind the book was to help those with learning disabilities access good eye care.

“For many people with learning disabilities this is a great step forward,” he emphasised.

Mr Watkin is a co-author of Looking After My Eyes and received a British Empire Medal in 2018 recognising his work in the disability community.

He highlighted that people with learning disabilities can be overlooked when it comes to eye care.

“Sometimes healthcare professionals don’t make reasonable adjustments,” Mr Watkin observed.

“I have been through the system myself. I know how hard it can be to get good eye care,” he added.

Reasonable adjustments include being flexible in the timing of appointments and giving the patient the opportunity to visit the optical practice before an appointment.

Professionals should also consider how information is presented, Mr Watkin added.

“It is vitally important that they have information in a format that is accessible to them,” he shared.

In a speech at the book launch, Mr Watkin highlighted that there are 1.5 million adults with learning disabilities in the UK.

This group are 10 times more likely to have vision issues, while children with learning disabilities are 28 times more likely to have an eye problem.

“That gap needs to change,” he emphasised.

“Without the right eye care people with learning disabilities experience avoidable sight loss,” Mr Watkin said.

SeeAbility’s national eye care and vision manager Stephen Kill highlighted that the book bridges the gap between those with learning disabilities, their support network and eye health professionals.

“We know there are lots of perceived barriers that might stop someone getting a sight test. This book is a way of starting a conversation,” he observed.

He described the launch of Looking After My Eyes as a “big moment.”

“So much work has gone into producing the book from a diverse team,” he said.

“We started out with literally a blank sheet of paper. It’s really good to get to the end and have a finished product,” Mr Kill shared.

Image credit: Selina Powell

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