Seeing beyond the eyes

A blind entrepreneur has developed a CET-accredited course to help optometrists and dispensing opticians give appropriate care to low vision patients

Daniel Williams

A blind entrepreneur has created a CET-accredited course to improve the care that is provided to low vision patients by optometrists and dispensing opticians.

Daniel Williams, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of eight, developed his Seeing Beyond the Eyes course by drawing on his own experiences and those of family and friends who also live with sight loss.

“I was hearing common themes around optometrists and dispensing opticians who understood the anatomy of the eye and the medical model of disability but maybe didn’t understand the social model of disability,” he explained.

“People were going out of the clinic distraught after being told ‘There is nothing we can do for you’ and not knowing where to go next,” Mr Williams elaborated.

Seeing Beyond the Eyes gives optometrists the skills to be able to explain and sign post the services that are available to people living with sight loss.

The three hour course provides practitioners with nine CET points. It is divided into three modules: understanding sight loss, supporting patients with sight loss and communicating with patients who have low vision.

Mr Williams highlighted that when he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of eight, his condition was explained to his mother while he was in the room.

“I didn’t really understand what was happening. I just thought I had to wear a pair of glasses and everything would be fine. Although I was eight years old I still had the ability to understand what they were saying if it was maybe broken down in a way that was easier to take in,” he emphasised.

Optometrists are often the first point of contact in a person’s sight loss journey, Mr Williams shared.

“The more optical professionals learn, the more people with sight loss will be empowered with knowledge too,” he concluded.

Top tips for treating low vision patients

  • Introduce yourself so that the patient knows who you are and what your job role is. There are many patients who see professionals in a variety of roles and might be confused about who they are talking to
  • If there is a diagnosis then it is important to explain it in layman’s terms and tell the patient about the services and equipment that are available to help them
  • Offer to guide a person. Some people may need guiding in from the waiting area. Do not leave the room without telling a patient where you are going
  • When there are parents or carers or family members present, direct your answers to the patient
  • Ask the patient before turning up or down the lights in the clinic as some people might experience light sensitivity. 

Image credit: US Air Force/Jason Minto