SeeAbility Special Schools Eye Care team shortlisted for RNIB award

The charity’s work in special schools has seen it listed in the Team of the Year category at the RNIB See Differently Awards 

A young child in a blue jumper is fitted with lime green glasses by a SeeAbility staff member

SeeAbility’s Special Schools Eye Care team has been shortlisted for a Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) See Differently Award.

The team, which provides eye care services in special schools across London as part of the Special Schools Eye Care Service (SSECS), has been named in the Team of the Year category.

The SSECS provides care for children with special needs, who often find it difficult or impossible to access eye care in High Street optometry practice.

The nomination recognises SeeAbility’s work providing sight tests, spectacles and follow-up care to these children.

In 2023, the SeeAbility team performed 2800 eye tests as part of the SSECS.

Lisa Donaldson, head of eye care and vision at SeeAbility, said: “We are delighted to be nominated for this prestigious award. The nomination highlights the benefits of providing a comprehensive eye care service to all special school students.”

She added: “In 30 school sites, our teams of optometrists and dispensing opticians provide routine eye care, glasses and support to wear them, as well as a plain English report to help everyone understand each child’s visual needs abilities and limitations. We look forward to a time when every special school student’s visual needs are met.”

While half of children in special schools have a sight problem, many of those who use the service have never received any form of eye care before, SeeAbility said.


Malvi Patel, clinical lead optometrist at SeeAbility, said: “For many children with additional needs a visit to a hospital eye clinic or High Street opticians can be frightening. They are in rooms they aren’t familiar with; they might see a different person every time, and the equipment looks scary. They feel anxious and don’t want to engage.”

She added: “We are led by the children. We go wherever they feel most comfortable – we’ve fitted glasses on a trampoline and done eye tests under tables. We try and make their appointment like a game.”

The RNIB See Differently Awards aim to recognise individuals and organisations that are working across the UK to support people with sight loss.

There are seven categories: Campaigner of the Year, Eye Care Professional of the Year, Best Content Creator of the Year, Team of the Year, Employer of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, and the Design for Everyone Award.

The charity’s CEO, Matt Stringer, said: “The RNIB See Differently Awards will celebrate those who dedicate their time, passion, and skills to help build an inclusive world for blind and partially sighted people. Congratulations to the shortlisted national finalists, you’re all fantastic with incredibly moving stories, and we wish you the best of luck.”

Patel explained: “Every day, as a team, we see how access to eye care and the right support is transforming the lives of children with learning disabilities. Their families tell us how needed the service is given all the challenges and demands they face, and teachers and schools have the information they need to help every child maximise their vision and so [their] learning. It would mean the world to our team to know all the hard work and dedication they put into their clinics is being recognised.”

Winners will be announced in a ceremony to be held in London on 21 May 2024.