Sep 17

Seeing things clearly this National Eye Health Week

Posted on Thursday 14th September 2017


Are you confident that the people you support get the right eye care?

This National Eye Health Week we want to ensure that people with learning disabilities are supported to access the right eye care and vision services.

Vision is a vital part of how people communicate and move around in day to day life safely. 

Adults with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to have sight problems than other adults, but many don’t receive regular eye tests or the correct eye care. This can put them at risk of losing their sight or spending their life with blurred vision.

SeeAbility’s National Manager for Eye Care and Vision, Stephen Kell, told us:

“Adults with learning disabilities may not know if they have a sight problem and even if they did, they may not be able to tell someone. We all need to make sure that people are getting the right support to look after their eyes.”

Everyone, including people with learning disabilities, should have an eye test every two years (or more if needed). Adults with learning disabilities are entitled to an annual health check with their GP which should include questions about eye care.

Sight loss is frequently a ‘hidden’ disability in people with learning disabilities, and can be the reason for a number of changes in behaviour. But often it can be the last thing that has been thought about as an underlying reason why.

SeeAbility works with lots of groups and individuals and have seen positive outcomes when people access the right eye care. They told us about how they worked with Laura, an adult with learning disabilities, when her eyesight deteriorated after moving into a nursing home.

“We supported Laura’s team to think about what eye care she needed and coordinated this with the nursing home, community teams, the optometrist and her family.

We arranged for a domiciliary sight test for Laura where a trained optometrist visited her home and worked with Laura’s support team to communicate with her about her eye care.

As a result Laura had surgery on her cataracts and her improved vision means she’s more outgoing and enjoys accessing the community.

Her story shows why it’s so important to ensure everyone, especially people with learning disabilities, get the right eye care.”


Here’s how you can ensure the people you support access the right eye care.

  • Understand how people with learning disabilities use their sight, and how to recognise signs that they might have difficulty seeing. SeeAbility's Functional Vision Assessment Tool is a great starting point in eye care support - but ensure you share the outcomes and any concerns with an eye care professional. 
  • Support people with learning disabilities to have an eye test at least every two years, or more often if needed.
    • Some parts of the country have commissioned specialist eye care pathways for people with learning disabilities.
    • Some optometrists offer additional services to support people with learning disabilities such as picture tests instead of letters, longer appointments, multiple visits including familiarisation visits, easy read information and staff who’ve had training about the specific needs of people with learning disabilities. Use SeeAbility’s optometrist database to find a service in your area.
  • Choose a pair of glasses that the person likes and make sure they’re comfortable to wear.
  • Ensure the person and staff know when the glasses should be worn, for example reading, watching TV or at all times.
  • It might be useful to introduce the glasses for short spells of time initially to help the person get used to them.
  • Support the person to clean their glasses regularly.
  • If someone has a visual impairment, organise an assessment by a specialist rehabilitation worker to assess their independence and communication in everyday activities. 
  • Record a person’s eye care and vision support in their support plan, communication passport, health action plan and annual reviews.


Find out more

We have lots of resources for adult social care employers to ensure their workforce has the right skills and knowledge to support people with learning disabilities.

SeeAbility has short factsheets and films about eye tests, wearing glasses and eye conditions for people with learning disabilities and those who support them.  

Get in touch if you’d like to share any outcomes from supporting people with learning disabilities at a sight test – we’re keen to hear about positive stories where people are now making the best use of their vision!