Alert on barriers to eye care

People with learning disabilities are being institutionalised because of behavioural difficulties caused by undiagnosed sight problems, campaigners say.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind said “huge numbers” of people with learning disabilities, in institutional settings and in the community, were not having eye tests, even though sight problems were relatively high within the group.

The institute, with charity SeeAbility, is launching an information service. Called LookUp, the service will provide a helpline and website with information on eye care for people with learning disabilities.

The charities said social care staff faced a “dearth” of training on the subject and eye care professionals were poorly informed about services tailored to people with learning disabilities.

A spokesperson for RNIB Scotland, which has had a unit devoted to learning disabilities for 12 years, said it had uncovered a “very large percentage” of people in long-stay hospitals who had not been tested. In one, 94 per cent of the residents were found to have a problem once examined.

Gill Levy, information officer with SeeAbility, said behavioural problems were sometimes due to unidentified sight problems. She added: “There are thousands who may have skills that are not being used because they cannot see properly.”

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Helen McCormack


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