CooperVision, Optometry Giving Sight and Special Olympics have come together to support the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Foundation Opening Eyes® program, which aims to strengthen vision care inclusion for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The organizations have committed $300,000 through 2023 to provide Special Olympics athletes with high-quality vision and eye health screenings, prescription eyewear and sports goggles, while also providing improved education and training for eye care professionals (ECPs) and optometry students so they are better able to meet the unique needs of this marginalized group.
“Our athletes suffer some of the lowest access to vision care of any population globally,” said Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Chief Health Officer, Special Olympics. “Globally, 35% of our Special Olympics athletes need new prescription glasses and 23% have never even had an eye exam. Together with CooperVision and Optometry Giving Sight, we are able to continue to bring the benefits of Opening Eyes around the world and help close the gap to access to vision care for people with intellectual disabilities.”
Now present in over 90 nations, the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Foundation Opening Eyes® program has helped strengthen national health systems while creating increased access to care for individuals with intellectual disabilities, one of the most socially isolated, at-risk population subsets. Since its founding, Opening Eyes has conducted over 430,000 screenings and provided over 259,000 prescription eyeglasses and sport goggles to Special Olympics athletes around the world. The program has also offered practical training opportunities for over 50,000 ECPs and students.
The sponsorship dollars will be used to promote vision care inclusion as part of Special Olympics programming in Kenya, starting in 2021, and in the United States in 2022. As part of the partnership focus, the financial and technical support offered by CooperVision and Optometry Giving Sight will enable the following:
Vision screenings: Opening Eyes services, including vision and eye health screenings, will be expanded to reach additional Special Olympics athletes.
Training for ECPs: The organizations will host webinars and support e-learning modules to educate ECPs on the visual and eye health needs of persons with intellectual disabilities to enable better care for this segment of the population.
Resources for athletes: CooperVision and Optometry Giving Sight will supply videos to inform athletes and their families about various aspects of eye care, such as the anatomy of the eye, and how to care for glasses and contact lenses.
The partnership in Kenya will engage additional institutional partners, such as the M.P. Shah Hospital in Nairobi and the Lions Clubs International Eye Hospitals across the country.
In the United States, the partnership will bring the power of the Opening Eyes program to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida, making high-quality vision care a reality for over 2,000 athletes, while delivering clinical training for inclusive vision care to at least 50 ECPs, while supporting additional volunteer opportunities as part of the Opening Eyes program.
“CooperVision is committed to helping people see better each day and we feel a sense of responsibility to bring the community together to help improve eye care” said Dan McBride, president, CooperVision. “We’re excited to support the Opening Eyes program to increase vision care inclusion and look forward to working with practitioners and our partners to build awareness and enable greater access to care.”
“We believe all individuals deserve proper vision care to prevent blindness or other long- term vision impairments. The support our partnership will provide the intellectually disabled community is an extension of the work we do to improve eye care for people around the world,” said Anne Marie Hand, Executive Director, North America, at Optometry Giving Sight. “We’re looking forward to our continued collaboration with CooperVision and this new opportunity with Special Olympics to facilitate vision care inclusion for this underserved population.”
image via specialolympics.org