Scheme proves an eye opener

August 10, 2001

Volunteer optometry students and lecturers from around the world helped to run the first Opening Eyes programme in the United Kingdom at Cardiff 2001 Special Olympics last week.

More than 200 volunteers paid their own fares to travel to the Olympics from as far away as Scotland, Northern Ireland, the United States and mainland Europe, for training by specialists at Cardiff University's Special Assessment Clinic, based in the department of optometry and vision sciences.

This is the only clinic in England and Wales serving children and adults unable to participate in conventional eye examinations because of learning disabilities or physical limitations.

Some 7,000 athletes from around the world had the opportunity to get their eyes tested this week. If glasses were prescribed they were made and provided free on the spot.

Opening Eyes is a division of the Special Olympics organisation, which provides opportunities for international participation in athletics events for individuals with learning disabilities.

When the scheme was inaugurated in 1991 in the US, optometrists found that 68 per cent of athletes had not been given an eye test in the previous three years, 37 per cent needed glasses and 18 per cent were wearing clinically incorrect spectacles.

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