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Eyesight of ‘special needs’ children in danger without tests, SeeAbility charity warns

PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 September 2015

Lana has first sight test revealing blurred vision—but new glasses give her focus on the world [photos James Boardman]

Lana has first sight test revealing blurred vision—but new glasses give her focus on the world [photos James Boardman]

© James Boardman Press Photography 07967-642437

Thousands of vulnerable children in London who have disabilities are missing crucial eye care despite their higher risk of sight problems, researchers have found.

Brandon... given first eye test at 16 which finds he was blind in one eyeBrandon... given first eye test at 16 which finds he was blind in one eye

New statistics revealed today by the charity SeeAbility, which helps youngsters with sight loss and disorders, show nearly four-in-10 pupils attending special schools have no history of eye tests.

This represents 37 per cent of the 14,000 pupils in special needs schools across London, including 445 in Tower Hamlets and 292 in neighbouring Hackney.

The charity has been carrying out specialist eye-tests with pupils in a cluster of special schools for the past two years.

Special needs pupil Lana has profound disabilities and could not move or speak. Her sight test revealed blurred vision—but Lana’s new glasses allow her to focus better and she can now communicate with people.

Nathaniel gets his first eye-testNathaniel gets his first eye-test

Brandon, another pupil at one of the pilot schools, was given his first ever sight test at the age of 16. The test found Brandon could not see out of his right eye.

The problem is made worse by children with disabilities being 28 times more likely to have serious sight problems, the charity points out. Their sight is at risk if eye problems are undetected, it warns.

“We are calling on the government to make sight tests available in every special school,” SeeAbility’s David Scott-Ralphs said.

“Children with profound disabilities may not be able to tell someone they have a vision problem, or get to an optician.

“So instead, we need to bring much-needed eye care to them.”

The charity is going public today on the issue, launching its Children in Focus campaign with an online petition on the SeeAbility website.

This is being handed in to the Department of Health in Whitehall to highlight the “major health inequality that the government and NHS have a responsibility to address”.

The organisation is pressing the government to make it easier for children with disabilities to get their sight tested routinely.

Making eye-tests available in every special school would be a start in making the reforms needed and help children with disabilities, it says—but “there is no plan to meet such needs”.

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