John Spellar, MP for Warley, attended an event by sight loss and learning disability charity SeeAbility and the optical sector’s professional body, the Optical Confederation on Tuesday 5 July.
The House of Lords event signalled the release of SeeAbility’s new report, ‘Delivering an equal right to sight’. The charity has found hundreds of thousands of people with learning disabilities in England experience problems with their eyesight, yet they are much less likely to get the eye care they need, and some are even tragically losing their sight.
At the event John met people with learning disabilities, charities, optometrists and eye care professionals who are working to make local eye care services more accessible and raise awareness of vision problems for people with learning disabilities.
Those attending also heard how NHS England’s national sight testing and funding system is letting down people with learning disabilities and desperately needs reform.
Campaigners want all working age adults with learning disabilities to be eligible for NHS funded sight tests. They also say new national pathways of eye care are needed by people with learning disabilities, including in special schools. Currently there are only a few areas of the country which fund dedicated learning disability eye care services in community optical practices. A new petition on the parliament website has been launched to support the campaign.
After the event, John commented: “Like many people I wasn’t aware of the staggering rates of sight problems among both children and adults with learning disabilities. Many of these problems can be easily treated provided they are identified through a sight test.
It makes sense for the NHS to invest in preventative sight testing services and remove the barriers that people with learning disabilities experience, otherwise people might lose their quality of life, their independence and become more reliant on high cost care and support.”
For more information on the campaign and to sign the petition see: www.seeability.org/equalrighttosight