How we collect information about the world around us is most often tied to sight. Unlike other creatures, humans are heavily dependent on vision as our dominant sense. In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of learning done in childhood classrooms is visual – leaving those with poor vision at a disadvantage to peers. 

Unfortunately, around the world visual impairments are a highly common and yet significantly undertreated issue affecting every demographic and region of the world. A staggering one in four (25%) U.S. students have a vision impediment – many of whom do not have access to vision care and may not know about their deficiencies. Worse, these numbers are expected to increase given added screen time and reduced outdoor playtime during the Covid-19 pandemic.

To draw attention to this year’s World Sight Day (October 8th) and help inform the public about the importance of eye health in children, vision leaders around the world are partnering to advocate, educate and provide care in never-before attempted ways. For example, from NYC to Australia and around Africa partners will be executing programming events that range from in-person eye screenings to a live, round-the-clock “bedtime story” reading by people like John Oliver, Princess Alia of Jordan and Billie Jean King. 

In partnership, the International Association for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), OneSight and Clearly are hosting the bedtime story reading event in tandem with publishing a free, digital children’s book entitled Through the Looking Glasses featuring about 30 short stories and illustrations, submitted from children’s authors and illustrators from over 20 different countries – each one about seeing clearly. For the bedtime story reading event, two stories will be read aloud on video in 12 time zones during “bedtime” around the world. Stories will begin in Australia and move West until the evening concludes.

Clear sight can help students learn twice as much and reduce dropout rates (improving academic performance). Given that the U.S. ranks 18th among developed countries in high school graduation rates (just over 70%), access to affordable vision screening and glasses could make all the difference in the lives of many youth. Thus, in addition to the book reading there will be actual in-person screening in New York that includes comprehensive vision testing, frame selection, glasses manufactured on site and dispensed the same day. Similar events will be conducted in Australia, South Africa, Rwanda, Zambia, Liberia, and The Gambia this month and through the remainder of 2020.

Before the start of 2020 one in three students (33%) had not had a vision screening test in the past two years – despite many vision centers in the U.S. being located inside schools. Now, with schools closed or reducing in-person attendance, even those who could access care in person before, cannot for the foreseeable future. Although operations may return when schools resume full-time, the coming months are vital for helping children meet the added challenges of education during a global pandemic.   

To help with that, and include those around the world who are sheltering at home, there are also new online resources and tools for vision testing. Specifically, for parents who are interested in testing their children’s vision to determine if a vision correction issue might exist. 

Throughout World Sight Day, events will be happening online and in-person ranging from educational seminars to fundraisers to advocacy and access programming. 

If you or your children need more information about school requirements for vision or access to testing, please visit any of the resources below.

And, if you want to participate in the bedtime story reading event in honor of World Sight Day, the times for storytelling and links can be found here.

Online Vision Check here.

Social resources for World Sight Day here.

Covid-19 clinic operational protocols here.

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