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SeeAbility trustee made UK’s first professor of special needs and learning disability eye care

Professor Rachel Pilling, a consultant paediatric ophthalmologist, has been appointed to the University of Bradford professorship

Nathan Richardson
Nicholas Ashurst, SeeAbility
A trustee for UK charity SeeAbility has been appointed as the first professor in special needs and learning disability eye care in the UK.

Professor Rachel Pilling, a consultant paediatric ophthalmologist, has been appointed to the professorship within the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Bradford.

Rachel Pilling
The University of Bradford's Professor Rachel Pilling, a SeeAbility trustee
Professor Pilling has spent over a decade championing the needs of people with learning disabilities, and has lectured at the University of Bradford since 2011.

In 2016, she won Vision UK’s Astbury Award for her work within the Bradford Learning Disability Eye Service. She has been a trustee for SeeAbility since 2018, and is also currently supporting NHS England in the development of a nationwide programme to provide eye care in England’s special schools.

Her professorship is a result of her involvement in driving forward clinical support for children with learning disabilities in Bradford’s special schools, as well as her academic research and work to develop tools to detect and act on vision loss in people with learning disabilities. She started her new position at the University of Bradford in September.

SeeAbility is a national charity, working to promote eye care for people with learning disabilities. Its work includes providing specialist support to enable people with learning disabilities, autism, and sight loss to achieve their ambitions and participate fully in society.

Lisa Hopkins, chief executive of the charity, said: “At SeeAbility, we are thrilled that this new professorship has been created in recognition of the prevalence of eye and vision problems in people with learning disabilities.”

She added that Professor Pilling “is passionate about ensuring no one with a learning disability experiences avoidable sight loss and that everyone is aware of the very high prevalence of eye and vision problems in this population.”

Professor Pilling said: “This is an incredible opportunity to build on the last 10 years of my work and career at Bradford University to date, to make a positive impact and really make a difference to the eye care of people with learning disabilities.”