A clearer vision for people with a learning disability
Tuesday 19 January 2010
Over 90 people, many with a learning disability, attended a listening event in Westminster on 19 January, to discuss the barriers they face accessing eye care services.
Tom Clarke MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Group on Learning Disability hosted the event with learning disability charity Mencap, SeeAbility, RNIB and the Eye Health Alliance to ensure that people with a learning disability have access eye care services. The event brought together the All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) on eye health and visual impairment and learning disability, professionals, campaigners and people with a learning disability to discuss experiences of eye care and identify what needs to change.
Of the one million people with a learning disability in England, 1 in 3 have a sight problem. Sight loss can be a terrifying experience especially for people who may not understand why their once familiar world is now frighteningly different. Research has shown that people with a learning disability experiencing sight problems can become anxious, withdrawn and depressed, some may even develop behavioural problems that challenges services.
Mavis is in her 50s and has a learning disability. At one point Mavis became depressed and stopped eating. She was labelled a messy eater when she could not keep food on a fork and t was thought she was incontinent because she could not find the toilet independently and did not ask for help from staff. She became so distressed that she would throw herself on the floor and remove her clothing to draw attention to herself. When Mavis eventually had a sight test it was found that she had glaucoma. If left untreated, this condition can lead to blindness. Mavis was disruptively because she could not see clearly. Regular sight tests may have helped to detect this condition earlier, preventing avoidable sight loss.
Tom Clarke MP, Co-Chair of the APPG for Learning Disability said: "This listening event was a fantastic opportunity to discuss the challenges facing people with a learning disability. It was heartening to see so many individuals and charitable organisations coming together to begin this hugely important piece of work. We know that this is only the beginning of the road in improving eye care provision, but I think that the determination of those present means that we can only succeed."
David Scott-Ralphs, Chief Executive of SeeAbility, said: "We know from SeeAbility's work through our eye 2 eye Campaign that people with learning disabilities face many barriers in accessing good, appropriate eye care. People with learning disabilities are most likely to have sight problems and least likely to get the right help and support with their eye care. This event was an important opportunity to raise these vital issues with policy and decision makers and to suggest ways to improve awareness and practice nationally."
For further information contact Anil Ranchod on 020 7696 6950 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
- People with learning disabilities may not know they have a sight problem and they may not be able to tell others
- Changes in behavior may be their only way to tell supporters of their sight loss - but these behavioural changes may be misunderstood
- Unidentified sight problems can seriously undermine people's quality of life and lead to avoidable sight loss and increased dependency
- People with learning disabilities are most likely to have sight problems - and least likely to get the right help and support with eye care
- Vision is the key to learning, communication and movement