Joanne standing outdoors

Eye Health Week: Accessing the right eye care

My name is Joanne Kennedy and I work for SeeAbility as an Eye Care Champion in the North West.  

As this is National Eye Health Week, I want to tell you why eye care is important to me and why it matters for everyone who has a learning disability.  

A couple of years ago, I started getting headaches but didn’t know what was causing them. A friend said it could be to do with my eyes so I arranged to have an eye test. The optician tested my eyes and found that I needed to wear glasses – this really surprised me, I thought my eyesight was fine!  

I now have 2 pairs of glasses, for TV and for close-up work. My glasses help me to see better. I know that wearing the glasses stops me from getting the headaches. It was frustrating getting the headaches because I didn’t know what was causing them. I am pleased that I don’t get them anymore. I know how to look after my glasses and to keep them clean and they help me to do my job!  

SeeAbility has lots of easy read resources to help people wear their glasses.

However, I talk to people all over the North West and I know that many people are not having regular eye tests.  

Lots of people have stopped having eye tests because of Covid. People were worried about what it would be like going for an eye test. Now opticians can see people safely again.  

There are also other barriers to eye care. Some people don’t realise that they need to have an eye test or think that this is not possible for someone with learning disabilities.  

This is not true – we know that no-one is too disabled to have an eye test.  

Some people are also worried about the cost of an eye test because not everyone is entitled to a free eye test. Here is some information about help towards the cost of eye tests and glasses.

SeeAbility is calling for a change to regulations so that everyone with a learning disability is eligible for an annual NHS sight test because of the higher risk of eye problems not being picked up. This summer we wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Chief Executive of NHS England with our “manifesto” for better eye care for people with learning disabilities.  

One of the best ways to promote eye tests is through Annual Health Checks. December 2021 figures reported that 75.2% of people with learning disabilities have an Annual Health Check at their GP surgery. This should always include questions about the person’s eye care. GP’s should then signpost people to eye care services in their area.  

I am part of a team of Eye Care Champions in the North West and London. We are using our lived experience of learning disabilities and autism to train GP’s about eye care. Please get in touch if you would like to receive this training!  

In the North West, we now have an eye tests service for people with learning disabilities called Easy Eye Care. The service provides longer or split appointments from optometrists who have received additional training. Find more information and a list of practices.

Please get in touch for more information or if you would like advice or a presentation about eye care!