RNIB press release
PEOPLE with learning difficulties are ten times more likely to have sight problems than the general population, according to new research that will be released in the Scottish Parliament this evening [Thursday, June 23].
People with severe or profound learning difficulties are the most likely to have serious sight problems. In addition, six out of 10 people with learning difficulties need to wear glasses.
The findings - released during Learning Disability Week which runs till Saturday - underline fears that many vulnerable people may not be able to tell others that their sight is affected. Changes in behaviour may be the only way to communicate that they have problems, and often this can be misinterpreted by families and supporters.
The research was commissioned by the sight loss organisations RNIB and SeeAbility and undertaken by the respected Centre for Disability Research at Lancaster University. Its findings will be formally released at a reception in the Scottish Parliament for learning disability organisations and MSPs.
RNIB is calling for all people with a learning difficulty to be given a formal check-up of their vision as part of their community care assessment. It also wants young people with a learning difficulty leaving school to get a check-up to ensure undetected sight loss does not impede their transition to adult life.
Regular sight tests can help detect eye conditions and early treatment can often prevent permanent sight loss. But tests also provide indications of general health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure which can also lead to sight problems.
RNIB's Visual Impairment Learning Disability team, based in Bishopbriggs, also emphasises that earlier detection of sight loss can lead to significant savings in social care and mobility costs. Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn MSP Patricia Ferguson is hosting tonight's reception in Holyrood.
"This new research corroborates what RNIB's pioneering team has been saying for some time," she commented. "That some of the most vulnerable people in our society might be doubly disadvantaged. We must ensure that no one is burdened and held back by sight loss that can be corrected, by building in proper eye examinations into the care process."