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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, April to October 2021



Stepper steps up again for homeless clinic
Homeless vision charity calls for more volunteers
Scottish RNIB warns of post covid neglect
Gloucester has new Vision Care for Homeless People clinic
RNIB welcome new Scots VI Website
Macular Disease Conference 2021, Registration now Open
Getting back to work with a Visual Impairment
Film Fans with VI press for audio description
Top Award for Groundbreaking Eyecare Programme for Children with Special Needs
Small charity week fires up VCHP
Charity says it’s Time to Talk Eye Health as it Reports on a Dynamic 2020
New smart glasses help people with macular disease to read, recognise faces and identify objects
Eye cancer charity welcomes new Community Urgent Eye Service (CUES)
SeeAbility’s eyecare work shortlisted for the Charity Awards 2021
Disabled people make their voices heard as election approaches
Read Charity News from January to March 2021

Stepper steps up again for homeless clinic

October 2021

Images from VCHP clinics

STEPPER EYEWEAR is generously supporting the Leeds Vision Care for Homeless People clinic with a donation of more than Ł7,000, announced on World Homeless Day (10th October).

It follows Stepper's generous financing of the Manchester clinic last year.

By consolidating its charitable giving the well-respected frame company is making a tangible difference to some of the most vulnerable people in the UK.

Peter Reeve Stepper Peter Reeve, Managing Director of the eyewear company visited the clinic within St Georges’ Crypt in Leeds last week and saw at first hand the valuable work which VCHP carries out at all of its regional clinics. He explained, “Once again, we have decided to focus our charitable support in the direction of VCHP, where it can make a real difference for the next 12 months. The VCHP clinics are very well equipped and provide a professional service with a great team and we are delighted to be associated with them.”

Elaine Styles, Chair of Vision Care for Homeless People praised the support. “This donation will make a real difference for so many people and is very symbolic as it came on World Homeless Day and just before World Sight day on 14th October. We are especially grateful that these issues are being highlighted by STEPPER EYEWEAR’s support.”
She added –
“Our qualified volunteer network is the backbone of our service, but we still need financial donations to keep the service running. We are hugely grateful to all of our supporters – our work can be truly transforming for some vulnerable lives. Being able to see well can be the much needed first step to removing the barriers and helping to re-build lives.”

Picture shows Peter Reeve MD of STEPPER EYEWEAR
Also at top composite shot of patients helped at the Leeds clinic – credit

Homeless vision charity calls for more volunteers

September 2021

Karen Gennard

Volunteers are urgently needed by Vision Care for Homeless centres in Leeds, Exeter and Manchester as the clinics get back to providing service as usual. The charity is seeking optometrists to test occasionally at the Birmingham and Leeds clinics on Mondays, and Manchester on Wednesdays.

DOs, plus team leaders are sought, VCHP General Manager, David Brown said –
“Many in the profession are re-assessing their lives post-lockdown and may be looking to use their skills in a benevolent and relatively easy way – we would love to hear from them.”

The regional team leader roles require about ten hours of administrative volunteering a month and the charity is interested to hear from anyone with leadership qualities who can help ensure the clinics are well managed and resourced.

“It is a great opportunity for someone who is used to dealing with the administration of a practice. Ideas on raising funds and building links in the local community would also be very welcome,” added David.
“We have tremendous support from the optical community and particularly from the suppliers who do a great job in helping us with frames, lenses and glazing. Thanks to the industry support our test rooms are well kitted out and so it is a very rewarding role to fill, where volunteers can make a direct impact on the lives of local homeless people,” added David.

“Giving as many homeless and vulnerable people as possible access to our service is one important function of the lead teams. It is a chance for someone who really wants to make a difference by co-ordinating outreach and building links in the local community,” added David.

VCHP’s Manchester clinic reopened in September.

Pictured are Brian Meehan, volunteer clinic manager and Jane Laitt, volunteer optometrist.

To find out more visit

Scottish RNIB warns of post covid neglect

September 2021

National charity RNIB Scotland has expressed concern that the recent covid crisis may lead to a rise in preventable sight loss if people neglect eye-treatment or regular check-ups.

During National Eye Health Week this week [September 20-26th], it will remind people that going for regular eye examinations remains as important as ever.

The charity's director James Adams said: "A lot has happened over the past 18 months with the covid pandemic. But we must not neglect other health matters such as our vision because of this.

"Eye examinations are free in Scotland and can not only detect early signs of sight problems, possibly in time to arrest or reverse damage, but also sometimes pick up the symptoms of other conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. It is entirely safe to visit your local optometrist."

Julie Mosgrove, vice-chair of Optometry Scotland, said: “We have been communicating regularly with our members to share the latest Scottish Government guidance throughout the pandemic in relation to personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing measures.

“We would stress the importance of attending regular eye examinations as this is a vital health check that can detect a number of conditions and prevent avoidable sight loss.”

As part of RNIB Scotland's campaign, Bruce Christie from Westhill in Aberdeenshire has recorded a short video for the charity's social media describing how an eye examination prevented his sight condition getting worse. "I got my eyes tested a few times but to be honest I let it slip a bit as I was always too busy. When I was about 35, I did go to get my eyes tested again and suddenly found the optician couldn't fill my prescription. While I'm partially sighted now 20 years later, had I not gone to get my eyes tested I know for sure I would be completely blind.

"While it's 15 or 20 minutes out of your life, it can actually save your sight, so I'd recommend you do it."

Hazel Kelly from Edinburgh said also on video "an eye examination had also prevented blindness. In my case, a routine check-up by my optician picked up on something and referred me to my local eye hospital, where I was diagnosed with the beginning of two rare corneal conditions," she said. "This referral ensured I got early treatment which prevented me from actually going blind. And while I still have issues, if these conditions hadn't been picked up earlier then the outcomes for me could have been far, far worse."

According to a 'State of the UK’s Eye Health 2021' report, commissioned by Specsavers and eye health experts, there were 4.3 million fewer eye tests across the UK in 2020, a worrying 23 per cent drop compared to the last 12 months.

Mr Adams said: "Every survey shows that sight is the sense people fear losing most. Yet we can be surprisingly complacent about our eyes. During National Eye Health Week, we want to remind everyone to take care of one of the most precious things we have – our sight.”

RNIB provides information about all aspects of eye health, and a wide range of support to people experiencing problems with their sight, from emotional reassurance and counselling, to practical help with new technology and welfare benefits.

Gloucester has new Vision Care for Homeless People clinic

August 2021

Vision Care for Homeless People is to open a new weekly clinic in the middle of Gloucester, with funding provided by Gloucestershire CCG and supported by the Local Optical Committee.

This, the ninth Vision Care for Homeless People clinic in England, will be housed within the Rikenel Health Centre which provides care for the city’s homeless community. Equipped to NHS standards, much of the technology has been provided by the Hakim Group, which has several practices in the area.

Karen Gennard Karen Gennard, (left in picture) a local optometrist who has worked for Norville for many years, is the new clinic manager and is keen to open the doors.

“We know that homeless people don’t always have easy access to health services and as we will be in the same building as GPs and nurses caring for the homeless community we are expecting to have many referrals. Research by Vision Care for Homeless People has found that around 70% of homeless people need glasses for some aspect of their vision and 10% of patients seen are referred to hospital for other ocular conditions. We are expecting to be busy,” she said.

The Norville (20/20) lab is taking on the glazing work for the new clinic and additional supplies are being donated by Bondeye and Mainline.

The clinic is now looking for volunteers and for a team-lead who will oversee fundraising. Please contact:

RNIB welcome new Scots VI Website


Leading sight loss charity RNIB Scotland has welcomed the launch of a new Scottish Government website that brings together information on all aspects of visual impairment.

The Eyes.Scot site was launched on Monday 9th August.

James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland, said: "Around 170,000 people are currently living in Scotland who are blind or partially sighted. This will inevitably increase as we have an ageing population and a rising rate of sight-threatening conditions such as diabetes.

"So it's vital that we all understand how to maintain good eye-health, and that government and health services take the steps necessary to contain any increase as far as possible.

"The Eyes.Scot website will provide an invaluable one-stop hub from which people can access information on eye conditions, eye-health, and the wide range of support services provided by bodies like RNIB Scotland throughout the country.

"Nobody should have to experience sight loss alone. Through contacting one of the visual impairment organisations listed in the Partner organisations section of the site, people can be put in touch with the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) service that we and other charities run. ECLOs can offer the emotional reassurance and practical help that many people need on first diagnosis.

"We have worked with the Scottish Government to ensure the new site is accessible to people with limited vision and for screen-reading software."

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “Eye care is an important part of everyone’s health. I welcome the launch of Eyes.Scot, Scotland’s new national website for information about eye care services and eye health. Supporting both the public and eye care professionals, Eyes.Scot is an invaluable resource which provides easy access to information about how best to look after our eyes and sight. With the launch of Eyes.Scot all of this information is now available in one place making it easier to find and access the right information.”

RNIB Scotland is also pointing out that, as lockdown eases, it is as important as ever that people go for regular eye examinations at their local optometry practice (opticians). These are free in Scotland to everyone.

"Eye examinations can pick up the first symptoms of sight conditions when there's still time to arrest or even reverse damage," emphasised Mr Adams. "We must encourage everyone to take care of their eyes as much as their heart or lungs, to protect one of the most precious things we have - our sight."

Macular Disease Conference 2021, Registration now Open

July 2021

Registration for the Macular Disease Conference 2021 is now open!

The annual conference which is being held virtually online on Saturday 11 September from 09:15.

It’s easy to join in this year; attendance is free and you don’t even have to leave your home – all you have to do is register in advance (or on the day), sit in your favourite chair with a cup of tea and enjoy the day’s speakers.

And what a selection of speakers we have for you this year! From Professor James Bainbridge of UCL and Moorfields explaining how stem cells could hold the key to beating macular disease, to Paralympian athlete Zac Shaw discussing sport, sight loss and mental health – and many more.

There will also be a new segment this year called ‘Macular and Me’ – sessions aimed at helping family and friends to understand more about macular disease and how best to support their loved ones who have been diagnosed with it. And if you have recently been diagnosed and you want to find out more about macular disease and how best to live with it, this session is perfect for you.

If you’re busy on Saturday 11 September, you can still register for the conference and watch it at a later date. All the sessions will be recorded and accessible on our website afterwards.

View program and register

Getting back to work with a Visual Impairment

July 2021

"I knew I could still do my job and just needed some support to get back to where I was"

I knew my eyesight wasn’t right and I was getting anxious. My job is 100% computer based, I have a family, a mortgage, all the usual commitments. Fear began to envelop me. What was I going to do, how will I manage? Will my company lay me off? Am I destined for life on sickness benefit at the age of 50? I still wanted to work but didn’t know what was possible. I need a purpose in life and my career is everything.

I became aware of text on a screen or in a book looking odd; the lines appeared wavy and sometimes I would experience moving shadows in both eyes. I put this down to tiredness, or too much screen time or because of rubbing my eyes because they were sore and red; occasionally my vision became patchy or blurred. I started getting pain in my lower back as I was bending to see the screen. I was becoming clumsy but put this down to tiredness and stress rather than vision loss.

I decided to go to my optician for an early review and after my consultation, I was referred to the eye clinic at my local hospital where I was diagnosed with a condition called Macular Degeneration. I had never heard of it and was told by the Consultant Ophthalmologist that my eyesight would deteriorate, I would not lose all of it but there was no treatment available at the present time. He said I would probably lose my central vision, not in both eyes hopefully, but my peripheral vision should remain stable. He also informed me he was certifying me as ‘Sight Impaired’.

I was becoming very conscious in work, checking everything three times before I was happy that I had not made any mistakes. I work with large documents and segments of the page just disappeared from my field of vision, but I soldiered on as I was reluctant to admit to myself that I was having difficulties, let alone to my employers.

This resulted in my anxiety levels going through the roof and I noticed at home I was unable to watch TV and would bump into objects because I just did not see them. I was also unable to drive. Eventually I took sickness absence from work as I was finding the difficulties with my eyesight were really impacting on my life, along with frustration, anxiety and a general feeling of dread.

After two years of sickness absence, my salary now consisted of part wages and part from an Income Protection policy I had. I did not know what support was available or if there was a solution to this revolving door situation I was in, or was this my destiny? I was getting more and more depressed as I didn’t want to sit back and lose my career. I knew I could still do my job and felt I just needed some support to get back to where I was.

I decided to contact my Occupational Health department to discuss my situation and to be honest with somebody about my sight loss. The lady I spoke to was extremely knowledgeable and informed me that due to my disability I was protected under the Equality Act 2010, and that I would need a Workplace Needs Assessment for people with a Visual Impairment to find what adjustments could be put in place to enable me to return to work. I had never heard of such an assessment and could not for the life of me see what it could do as I was losing my sight and my job is 100% computer based.

The assessment was arranged late in the afternoon when the office was reasonably quiet. I sat with Dan who discussed with me not only the difficulties I was having at work, but physically, environmentally, and emotionally too - little did I realise there was so much help and equipment available to me.

I would be able to return to the workplace equipped with all the necessary information and adaptations to make my working and home life more bearable. I was astonished to discover the technology that was available!

Dan also recommended I contact the sight loss charities for more information and help. I was referred for intensive counselling, provided with magnification software so I could see my computer screen again, referred to my local council’s visual impairment team to learn how to use a cane so I could finally start getting out of the house independently again. I felt my ‘new’ life was starting.

Had I known about the assessment sooner, I could have prevented so much stress and anxiety as there was plenty of help and support available to me. I now know that I was not alone as at least 250 people begin to lose their sight every day. I didn’t necessarily need to be off on long term sickness claiming my income protection insurance.

It was a relief to find that after the recommended equipment was put in place and I had received the necessary training, I was able to return to work with confidence.

If I had been more aware of what was available to help me in the workplace, I’m sure I would have returned to work much sooner. This would have prevented so many sleepless nights, saved my company paying sick pay and the insurers paying out for my Income Protection claim.

I would have benefited, especially in terms of my mental health, self-esteem, my purpose in life and the fulfilment of working.

Advice and the story was provided by Dan Williams of Visualise Training and Consultancy who helps people with visual impairments retain their employment rather than being signed off from work.

Film Fans with VI press for audio description

July 2021

A film fan from Anstruther in Fife with vision impairment has embarked on a campaign to urge television and film producers to release all of their titles with audio-description (AD).

Billy Horsburgh has the sight loss condition glaucoma but still eagerly follows serials and films streamed on television where additional voice-over narration explains what is happening to the viewer.

But while some content is audio-described when streamed, programmes and films released for home entertainment often are not.

So Billy (39) is working with sight loss charity RNIB to urge producers and distributors to audio-describe all their films, not just a token few.

His campaign follows the launch of an Ofcom report today [Friday, July 9th] with both RNIB and hearing loss charity RNID calling on the UK government to implement its promise to introduce quotas for the amount of subtitles, audio-description and signed content on on-demand services. Changes to the law in 2017 gave the government the power to set minimum levels, but this has yet to be put into action.

Of the providers who responded to an Ofcom data request last year, 36.2 per cent don’t currently offer any subtitles, 83.3 per cent don’t offer any AD and 88.6 per cent don’t provide signing.

"I feel it's important for people like myself who enjoy audio-described programmes to have a wider access to such content," Billy says. "Despite the number of programmes that now have audio-description when broadcast on television, none of these have an AD-track when released on DVD and Blu-ray.

"I feel that every TV series box-set - such as 'Killing Eve', 'Line of Duty', 'White House Farm', 'Skins' - should be re-released with an AD track. I'm working with RNIB to contact all the major broadcasters to hopefully encourage them to re-release all their major box-set series with audio-description."

And it's not just television series. Billy is keen that more feature films released on DVD and Blu-ray also come with audio-description by default, too.

"I'd like box-sets of films such as the James Bond series all to be audio-described, rather than just two out of 24. I'm aware of the last four Bond films being audio-described, but not all of them are included in the 007 box-set. Other producers re-release their box-sets with audio-description, as do subsequent anniversary releases of older movies, so I don’t see why this should be different with the James Bond series.

"Again with the help of RNIB, I plan to contact these companies and others to ask them to re-release all earlier versions of their box-set films this time with audio-description."
Lack of digital space can be one reason for the omission of AD. Box-sets often come with additional features like director's cut, additional language subtitles for foreign language speakers, and additional scenes that didn’t make the initial cut, all of which may leave less room for AD-tracks.

Sonali Rai, broadcast and audio-description manager with RNIB, said: "We fully support Billy's campaign for more content to be audio-described on home entertainment platforms. UK film distributors have a great track-record of releasing their new titles with audio-description on DVD and Blu-rays, but it’s when the box-sets are released that audio-description is often forgotten or left out.

"There's also the issue of how one actually finds out if a DVD or a Blu-ray comes with AD. Amazon has an audio-description section for DVDs but no other retailer does. Unless someone with sight loss asks a sighted person to check the DVD case, there is no other way. We want audio-description to be listed under the DVD and Blu-ray specifications on a retailer's website just like subtitles and additional languages are. This would make it easy for blind and partially sighted film fans to confirm which ones have audio-description."

Top Award for Groundbreaking Eyecare Programme for Children with Special Needs

June 2021

SeeAbility is delighted to announce that we have taken the Overall Award for Excellence at this year’s Charity Awards, the longest-running and most prestigious awards scheme in the charity sector.

El Warebi 
As well as winning the top prize in the Healthcare category, SeeAbility was chosen as the Overall Winner by this year’s judges for our work to convince the NHS to roll out sight testing for children with learning disabilities to all special schools across England.

When SeeAbility discovered that children with learning disabilities were 28 times more likely than other children to have a serious sight problem, we set out to demonstrate to NHS England the huge benefits that could be gained for these children by providing specialist eye care within special schools.

In a six-year pilot programme involving 1,500 children at 11 schools, the charity conducted over 3,500 eye tests and dispensed more than 1,700 pairs of glasses.

Nearly half of the children tested had a problem with their vision, and a third needed glasses – yet 44% of them had never had their eyes tested before. After seeing the results, NHS England has now pledged to commission a model of eye care in special schools based on the programme. Over the next few years it is expected to benefit more than 120,000 children.

And the charity has been asked its advice on the adoption of similar models in Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales.

Lisa Hopkins, Chief Executive at SeeAbility, said: “We are so humbled to receive not one but two unexpected awards for the work of our brilliant and totally dedicated special schools team. It’s also recognition of the schools, parents and children who we have partnered with – and who have supported us so much over the past few years to evidence the huge injustice of avoidable sight loss in so many children with learning disabilities.

" To make this possible, as a social care provider, SeeAbility took the huge leap of faith to expand into direct clinical services and I thank our Trustees and colleagues across the organisation for their commitment in doing this.

" The support we’ve had over the years across health, research, the third sector, education and at the NHS has been immense and there are too many people to thank but this award is for them all too. We also pay special recognition to the funders who have helped us get to this stage.

" We sometimes have to pinch ourselves when we think of the difference this will make with the NHS now taking this model of care forward – delivering an equal right to sight to tens of thousands of children. I believe this will change the lives of future generations of children with learning disabilities who will now be better able to take advantage of their education leading to a more fulfilled life.”

Su Sayer, Chair of the Charity Awards judges, said: “SeeAbility created a brilliantly thought through programme which has already transformed the lives of many children with both a learning disability and sight loss. “The charity’s attention to detail, training almost 800 staff and ensuring that each individual would have the support they needed, was exemplary. They understood how important it was for eye testing for children to take place in familiar surroundings at school, rather than in hospital. As a result, many more children were tested and were able to have glasses where necessary.

“We can all appreciate what a huge difference being able to see clearly can make to anyone’s ability to engage in everyday life. This is an outstanding project which, by influencing the NHS, will make a lasting difference to many people with a learning disability across the UK.”

Charity Awards judge Martin Edwards, Chief Executive of Julia’s House hospice, said the project was a “brilliant example of transforming outcomes for a largely unnoticed group of beneficiaries”.

“They tested it, they based it on evidence and they built on their success with lobbying. They’ve interwoven it with the NHS and 50% of their staff have lived experience. I thought it was wonderful.

“We shouldn’t underestimate how complex it is to get the attention of a multilayered bureaucracy like the NHS at national level, and to produce a model that can be rolled out in a devolved health environment.”

Alongside the nine other category winners, three winners of the Rathbones Covid-19 Response Awards and the recipient of the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement, SeeAbility was presented with its two trophies in an online ceremony broadcast live on Thursday 10 June, hosted by writer, comedian and political commentator Ayesha Hazarika.

Andy Pitt, head of charities – London, at Overall Awards Partner Rathbone Investment Management, said:

“The Charity Awards celebrate leadership, good governance, innovation and excellence. As investment managers we do everything we can to support the work that the sector does and promoting best practice is an important part of our relationship with charities.”

“The past year has brought huge challenges for the charity sector, but it has also highlighted the importance of its contribution, without which people around the world would be significantly weakened. We are delighted to support these awards and to honour the brilliant work of UK charities large and small.”

Small charity week fires up VCHP

June 2021

Monday 14th June marks the start of Small Charity Week and Vision Care for Homeless People is calling on optometrists to volunteer for occasional days testing in the Manchester and Leeds city centre clinics.

“We are a small charity but with over 100 volunteers helping out when all our clinics are running, we can provide a vital service to homeless people,” said David Brown, VCHP General Manager.

The phased re-opening has started with Leeds clinic already open and London’s Skylight returning this month. Preparations for Manchester are under way and Exeter, Birmingham, and Brighton will follow.

The clinics – which are generously supported by the optical community – are well equipped with diagnostic technology and PPE provision.
“We are preparing volunteers to return to clinic. We have a thorough risk assessment procedure and by working with our host centres are able to provide a safe as service as possible.

This is very rewarding for everyone – our patients really appreciate what we are doing and it is so worthwhile to make a tangible difference to someone’s life,” he added.

If you're interested in volunteering, please visit:

Charity says it’s Time to Talk Eye Health as it Reports on a Dynamic 2020

June 2021

Eye Health UK told members it’s ‘time to talk eye health’ and inspire people to be ‘eye aware’ as it presented an upbeat round-up of 2020 and looked to the future at its online AGM on 26 May 2021.

Reporting on the year ending 31 December 2020 the charity’s chairman, David Cartwright, explained how “careful and flexible management of the charity’s operations and output had helped it traverse the challenges of the last year to increase its reserves and deliver public health campaigns that landed with real impact”.

During 2020 the charity’s covid eye care programme provided essential public advice and information on looking after your eyes during the pandemic with guidance on everything from accessing primary eyecare services to keeping your vision clear and eyes healthy when wearing a face mask, as well as, tips for minimising the effects of prolonged screen use.

Around a quarter of a million people benefited from the charity’s online advice and information over the last year, whilst Eye Health UK’s media activity generated national and regional coverage on a broad range of topics.

The charity’s resource library expanded in 2020 with a 10 best eye health habits series and covid eye care materials which includes a range of materials aimed at the 4.2 million people living in the UK for whom English is not their first language. These resources were translated into 30+ languages and produced in collaboration with COVID-19 Infographics.

New smart glasses help people with macular disease to read, recognise faces and identify objects

May 2021

Macular Society members are among 122 people from three countries who tested the latest smart glasses from OXSIGHT.

Oxsight's Onyx
OXSIGHT’s Onyx are specifically designed for those with central vision loss, and volunteers for the study were assessed on their ability to perform three core tasks – reading, face perception and object identification.

The findings reveal:

reading ability significantly improved for 86 per cent of participants
facial recognition and object identification significantly improved for three out of four people
the greatest benefits were experienced by those with the lowest visual acuity.
An even split of male and female volunteers were involved in the trial, with an average age of 71. Over two thirds of them had age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

How it works

The glasses capture images with a camera and display them on bright, colour-rich screens. Users can pause and magnify images up to eight times, and use computer vision detectors to find and highlight faces and text.

Dr Michael Crossland PhD MCOptom DipRVI, Specialist Optometrist in Low Vision and UCL Hon. Senior Research Associate at the world-leading Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “I’m very excited about the OXSIGHT Onyx low vision device. Assistive technology is already helping many of our patients with moderate to severe visual impairment, but current devices are limited by their weight, cosmetic appearance, non-intuitive controls, and lack of versatility. For example, some only work for one task, and others cannot be worn whilst walking.

“The OXSIGHT Onyx device has addressed many of these concerns and has clearly been designed with visually impaired people in mind. I think it will provide a more affordable, more versatile, more lightweight solution for many of the people I see with visual impairment, and will enable more people to maintain independence, to study, to work, and to avoid social isolation.”

Nathan Tree, a visually impaired GB ice hockey player, was one of the first to trial OXSIGHT Onyx. He said: “I put the glasses on and I could read - something I haven’t been able to do for many years.

“Day-to-day, the glasses help by adding detail to things. I can’t watch live sport at the moment because it moves too fast and I can’t see enough when I go to galleries or museums. The glasses will help with cultural things like that.

“I have a large print keyboard on my desk and I can barely see it now. With the glasses, I can see the whole thing. I can read the ingredients on food packets and they’re really helpful to read a menu.

“These glasses will make life better for many people.”

What next?

Following the trials, the smart glasses are being fine-tuned and should be ready for manufacture in summer 2021

Information from The Macular Society...pleased to support

Eye cancer charity welcomes new Community Urgent Eye Service (CUES)

May 2021

More babies and children with the rare eye cancer retinoblastoma took over six months to be diagnosed in 2020 than any other year since 2012.*

Figures released today by UK charity the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) show that almost a quarter (24%) of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma in 2020 took over six months to be diagnosed. In the previous eight years, the average has been 9%.

Just 35% of children fell within the recommended two-week referral period, the lowest figure since 2012.

Retinoblastoma (Rb) is a rare form of eye cancer found in babies and children up to the age of six. Around one child a week is diagnosed in the UK.

CHECT is therefore welcoming the newly-launched NHS Community Urgent Eye Service (CUES) as an additional potential route to diagnosis for concerned parents. CUES is a fully-funded service which provides urgent assessment, treatment or referral by a local optometrist for sudden onset eye problems. More urgent cases will be seen within 24 hours.

Parents of babies and children displaying any of the signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma can contact the CUES direct to ensure an urgent, detailed eye examination.

Find your local CUES service

Patrick Tonks, CEO of CHECT said: “We know there have been huge pressures placed on healthcare professionals this past year, but the delays in diagnosis we have seen in 2020 have the potential to seriously impact the prognosis for babies and children with eye cancer. We welcome the new Community Urgent Eye Service as a potential route to alleviate some of the current pressures on the health service, and ensure babies and children with retinoblastoma undergo a detailed examination as soon as any symptoms are observed, followed by an urgent onward referral where necessary. In areas where CUES is not yet in place, we would recommend parents contact their GP or local optometrist in the first instance.”

Any optometrists examining a child presenting with a symptom of retinoblastoma should bear in mind that around a third of Rb cases have a squint as a presenting symptom. It is therefore especially important with all new squints that if retinoblastoma cannot be confidently ruled out, an urgent referral must be made.

The main signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma are**:

Leukocoria / white eye (either seen in a photo or in the eye itself) 71%
Strabismus / squint – 34%
Change in colour of iris – 10%
Loss of vision – 8%
Redness or swelling without infection – 7%
Roaming eyes / child not focusing – 7%
Absence of red eye – 1%

For more information on retinoblastoma go to

World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week runs from 9-15 May 2020.

SeeAbility’s eyecare work shortlisted for the Charity Awards 2021

May 2021

SeeAbility is delighted to announce that it has made the shortlist for this year’s Charity Awards, the longest-running and most prestigious awards scheme in the charity sector.

SeeAbility has been shortlisted in the Healthcare and Medical Research category for its Children in Focus project, which has delivered sight tests and glasses to over 1500 children in special schools. The evidence from the project has now provided the template for a new national NHS service being rolled out in England’s special schools, reaching thousands more children.

The Charity Awards, which announced its shortlist today (7 May), is the sector’s most highly-regarded excellence recognition scheme.

All 27 shortlisted charities this year have been judged by an independent panel of sector leaders as having demonstrated best practice in leadership and management, from which other organisations can learn.

The project is part of SeeAbility’s national public health programme to prevent and address sight loss in people with learning disabilities, who are much more at risk of having a sight problem. After delivering over 3500 sight tests in special schools, and dispensing over 1700 pairs of glasses, Children in Focus helped establish proof to NHS England that there was a huge unmet need for eye care amongst children with learning disabilities, and make the case for the NHS to commission and fund a new countrywide “one stop shop” eye care service for special schools providing sight tests and dispensing glasses in school.

This will bring early eye care to over 120,000 children most at risk of experiencing a sight problem, overcoming the many inequalities, barriers and disjointed pathways they face in getting the eye care they need, and ensure parents and teachers have the user friendly information they need on what the child can see.

The ten category winners, plus the recipients of the Overall Award for Excellence and the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement, will be announced at a live-streamed online awards ceremony on 10 June.

Lisa Donaldson, SeeAbility’s Head of Eye Health said: “We are beaming about being shortlisted for the Healthcare and Medical Research category in the Charity Awards. I’m so proud of our team that have worked so hard to deliver an equal right to sight for children in special schools, and of course we’re wishing good luck to all our fellow nominees too. “

Matthew Nolan, chief executive of Civil Society Media, which organises the Charity Awards, congratulated all the shortlisted charities on making the highly-coveted shortlist. He said:

“In the spring of last year, we took the very difficult decision to put the 2020 Charity Awards on ice, until we had clearer visibility on how the pandemic would play out.
“Throughout the year we watched with dismay as the charity sector was buffeted by a triple-whammy of losing millions of pounds of fundraising income, being forced to re-engineer services to comply with lockdown and social distancing restrictions, and facing big spikes in demand for those services.
“But 12 months on, we are so impressed with how the sector has risen to the challenges and responded magnificently to the health, social care and economic crisis that
Covid-19 has wrought. There is no better time to celebrate charities and their incredible work, so we have decided to resurrect the 2020 awards and honour the applications that were submitted. The nominees on this year’s shortlist are large and small charities who are truly leaders in their field.”

Andy Pitt, head of charities – London at Rathbones, overall partner of the Charity Awards, said:

“The Charity Awards celebrate leadership, good governance, innovation and excellence. The past year has brought huge challenges for the charity sector, but it has also highlighted the importance of its contribution, without which people around the world would be significantly weakened. We are delighted to support these awards and to honour the brilliant work of UK charities large and small.”

Disabled people make their voices heard as election approaches

May 2021

With the Holyrood Elections next week, 80 disabled people, families and carers came together to grill representatives of the major political parties at an online hustings event on Thursday, April 22nd.

As many as one in five people in Scotland are disabled or have a long-term health condition meaning they are a sizeable portion of the electorate. Despite this, very little time has been given to debating the issues that directly affect disabled people and families as campaigning has gone on.

Last week’s event was organised by a consortium of nine major charities who are trying to rebalance the debate so the voices of disabled people and families are heard and their views considered.

At the hustings disabled people questioned candidates from the five main Scottish political parties on a wide range of issues including social care, the impact of the pandemic, social security, employment as well as rights and access. The panel was chaired by award-winning freelance journalist and broadcaster Pennie Taylor, who specialises in health and social care issues and covered by STV on Wednesday.

Rob Holland, External Affairs Manager for the National Autistic Society Scotland and one of the organisers of the hustings said: “Around one million people in Scotland have a disability or long-term health condition yet their views are often excluded from the national debate.

Given the uncertainty about the post-COVID landscape it is more important than ever for political parties to hear from disabled people and families, understand the challenges they face and do something about it."

QUOTES from disabled people that attended the Hustings

David Weir
David Weir, is 31, autistic and from South Lanarkshire. He said:

“The event was really important because it gave autistic people like me an opportunity to have our voices heard by the parties. I find that politicians often don’t know much about autism and other hidden disabilities, that really needs to change otherwise we will continue to be left out the debate.

I always vote and encourage other autistic people to vote. I feel that many politicians don’t listen – so the more disabled people speaking up the more they will understand the challenges we face and hopefully do something about it.”

Cat Johnson
Cat Johnson, 34 from Edinburgh, was diagnosed with MS at the age of 21 in 2007. She said:

“As someone with MS who has acquired disability rather than being born with one, you see both sides and remember how things were before. The way that we view and treat disabled people in society is so far off what is OK and that’s frustrating.

“It’s good to see politicians and their parties engaging at this stage but we need a longer term push for real change to provide better support for disabled people.
“Things like the new Scottish social security system holding on to the 20-metre-rule, which sets a baseless measure for the highest level of mobility support, need to change if we want to build a better, fairer society.”

Kirin Saeed
Kirin Saeed, 52 from Edinburgh is blind. She said:

“I as a visually impaired Asian woman believe events like these offer me and others to question the main decision makers, politicians, as well as to create greater awareness in the hope greater change may happen, although we have come a long way there is so much still yet to do. COVID19 has shown the importance in investing in the vulnerable of society to benefit all.

I am a pragmatic optimist and feel the only way we will have greater say is to be at the heart of the legislative process. And having the chance to question and getting a small response is a positive start. It is what happens afterwards that I really look forward towards.”

Representing the main political parties at today’s event was Jeremy Balfour (Scottish Conservatives), Pam Duncan-Glancy (Scottish Labour), Neil Gray (SNP), Gillian Mackay (Scottish Green Party) and John Waddell (Scottish Liberal Democrats).

The charities that are organising yesterday's hustings event were ENABLE Scotland, Health and Social Care Scotland (the ALLIANCE), Leonard Cheshire Disability, MS Society Scotland, National Autistic Society Scotland, RNIB Scotland, Scottish Autism, Sense Scotland and Sight Scotland.


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