Adults with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to have serious sight problems than other people, yet research shows that 50% of adults with learning disabilities haven’t had a sight test for at least two years.
Most will need extra support to recognise and report changes in their vision, and also to access the eye care services to which they are entitled. For this reason, we teamed up with disability and sight loss charity SeeAbility to launch a new resource, carefully designed to open up conversations, improve awareness and understanding, and support informed decision-making around eye health.
New wordless story, Looking After My Eyes, raises awareness of the importance of regular eye tests and everyone’s right to good quality eye care that meets their own particular needs. It demonstrates the reasonable adjustments that eye care service providers are legally required to make to ensure their services are accessible.
Looking After My Eyes tells a story completely through pictures which anyone can follow, whether or not they can read words. The pictures follow the journeys of two characters – one who gets her first pair of glasses and a second who undergoes surgery for cataracts. Professional best practice is demonstrated throughout and the characters’ emotional responses to their experiences are central to the story. Supplementary text at the end of the book gives useful background information on eye health and eye care, and signposts other relevant resources.
Over 18 months of research and development, authors Baroness Sheila Hollins (Beyond Words), Stephen Kill (SeeAbility), Scott Watkin BEM (SeeAbility) and Prof. Margaret Woodhouse (Cardiff University) worked together with artist Beth Webb, advisors with learning disabilities, their supporters and other eye care professionals to create the book. Throughout the development process, feedback was sought from over 70 adults with learning disabilities so that their ideas and experiences could be incorporated into the pictures.
The book is printed in a larger landscape format to make it easier to see and can be used to prepare someone before having an eye test, hospital visit or operation. It can also be used to help someone to understand the adaptations that are available for people with sight problems. Eye care professionals will find it an invaluable communication tool during consultations and before treatments.
Baroness Hollins said: “Being able to see is something we may take for granted until we experience sight loss ourselves. Losing one’s sight can have a devastating effect on almost every aspect of our lives. I hope that this book will help to inform and prepare everyone who reads it for if and when their own sight is impaired.”
Scott Watkin BEM said: “No one is too disabled to have a sight test and no one should have to live with vision problems. It took me a long time to find the support I need but this book will help more people with learning disabilities get the right support in time.”
The book was launched at the Beyond Words 30-year anniversary event on 3 September at the House of Lords.