Optometry students gain insight into RNIB services

An event organised by clinical tutors at Cardiff University raised awareness of services for people with sight impairment 

The organisers of an event at Cardiff University to raise awareness of services for people with sight impairment are gathered together, some wearing RNIB branded t-shirts, and the Mayor in the centre of the group
Betti Hunter / RNIB Cymru

An event at Cardiff University hosted by members and volunteers of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Cymru and the university’s Optometry Society drew attention to services for people with sight impairment.

Huda and Alia Hathaf, optometrists and clinical tutors at Cardiff University, arranged the event on 8 February to raise awareness of the work of RNIB.

"As future healthcare professionals, optometrists need to demonstrate empathy, care, and compassion for all,” Alia said.

Through the event, individuals with sight loss shared their experiences and discussed the barriers they have faced. Speakers included Tricia Sail, winner of the BBC’s Race Across the World 2023, while RNIB staff, volunteers, and members of the charity’s social groups also gave presentations.

Huda shared: “Having their support in the event and sharing their journeys with the students and lecturers puts in perspective that, in many cases, you may not be initially aware if someone is visually impaired, and you can’t tell someone what they can or can’t do.”

The Mayor of Cardiff, councillor Dr Bablin Molik who is CEO of Sight Cymru, was also in attendance.

“Having the Mayor of Cardiff attend the presentation and introduce the event brought the community together,” Alia said.

Discussing the idea for the event, the optometrists, who are graduates of Cardiff University, explained: “It was a fantastic way for some members of the RNIB with experience of sight loss to be able to give a presentation to a group of students for the first time.”

“Our goal was for future optometrists to be able to see an individual as a person, not just by their eyes,” Huda added.

Reflecting on the event, she shared: “We want all to be inspired and realise the importance of volunteering for a sight loss charity and giving to others. In return, it will allow you to gain so many skills and much enjoyment.”

“Volunteering is fun and the people that you connect with will be something that will remain with you for the rest of your lives,” Alia added.

The organisers hope it is the first of many events providing students an insight into sight loss and future careers in low vision.

“Our hope is that this presentation will be part of future curriculum and training sessions for students and qualified healthcare professionals,” Huda shared. She added: “Empathy is not something that is taught, but instead, being able to see life from a different perspective and being able to connect to an individual and what they are feeling about an experience.”

Professor John Wild, head of school, commented: “For our students to hear from so many people with various eye conditions who are enjoying a good quality of life was a reminder of the importance of understanding the person behind those conditions.”