Joanne stands in a park wearing a blue floral shirt

Joanne’s vision

Meet Joanne, one of SeeAbility’s Eye Care Champions. Growing up with a learning disability, Joanne has always been passionate about making community services accessible for more people like her. Joanne explains:

“When I heard SeeAbility were looking for people with lived experience to become their Eye Care Champions and help people with disabilities access better eye care services, I knew I had to apply for the job. I was over the moon to be hired, because not only is it my first paid job, but it’s also something that I care about.”

Our Eye Care Champions have experience of working in eye care or lived experience of disabilities. We believe this makes them ideal advocates to fully understand the barriers that people face in accessing eye care that works for them and to empower their peers by leading by example.

Since joining SeeAbility two years ago, Joanne has been able to reach and advocate for people like Tom to receive life changing eye care.

“Tom is autistic and often struggles with his mental health. For the past four years, he’s been living in a secure hospital where he’s unable to leave without support. During one of our video calls, Tom told me his eyes were aching and very itchy. I immediately knew that Tom needed an eye test and encouraged him to seek help at his hospital.”

Despite asking for help, Tom was told that he couldn’t go to the opticians and get an eye test during the pandemic.

“When Tom told me what had happened, I wasn’t surprised because the voices of people with learning disabilities are often ignored. I explained to him that optometrists can travel to the hospital he has been admitted to and give him an eye test there.”

After speaking with Joanne, Tom spoke to the staff again and they arranged for him to have an eye test at the hospital. At his appointment, he was prescribed eye drops to help with his itchy eyes and glasses to see more clearly.

“Many people don’t realise the permanent damage that can occur if you leave an eye care issue untreated. An early intervention such as a simple eye test can stop someone from going permanently blind.”

People with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to have serious sight problems but are also less likely to access the eye care they need due to a lack of awareness and inaccessible services.

Download our Autumn 2021 copy of SeeAbility Stories

Your gift today can help Eye Care Champions like Joanne to ensure more people with disabilities understand the need for good eye health and get the treatment and support they vitally need.