CINCINNATI - According to the American Optometric Association, one out of every four children in the U.S. has an undiagnosed vision problem, signaling a vision care crisis that is affecting students’ ability to see and learn.
The Centers for Disease Control even released a report listing vision disability as the single most prevalent disabling condition among children in the United States. Creating an effective solution to the vision crisis is where the non-profit OneSight steps in.
Each year, for a five-week period, about 30,000 students attending Tri-State schools receive vision screenings courtesy of OneSight and Luxottica, a global vision care company based in Mason. More than half of the students come from the Cincinnati Public School system.
After the screenings, students who have a visual and financial need are then referred to the OneSight Vision Center at Oyler School or a LensCrafters retail location for a free exam and eyewear. In its first year, the center at Oyler administered 1,255 eye exams and provided glasses to 65 percent of those students.
The 2013 effort ends Oct. 11.
“Keeping the program going is a combined effort,” said Dr. Jason Singh, OneSight's executive director. “Seeing over 30,000 kids in such a short period of time requires a lot of work, but it’s our responsibility to do this work, and by working together, we believe we can eradicate the vision crisis in our lifetime.”
Volunteers in vision
That work is taken on by OneSight volunteers, who dedicate their time but their talents. For most students, the vision correction may be minor, like near-sightedness, astigmatism or a lazy eye. For others the vision correction needed could be more serious.
Dr. Marilyn Crumpton of the Cincinnati Health Department's Division of School & Adolescent Health said that for children who have been suffering with eye issues for most of their lives, the impact is life changing.
“For example, the student now sees what they need to learn on the board, in a book or on the computer. In some cases, the students' writing improves when they can see what they are writing,” Crumpton said. “Many students have needed vision correction for years. They knew their vision was different and may have relied on classmates to help them with what they could not read. Since their vision had always been affected, they had learned to cope using such assistance.”
While it is always best to have a child seen annually by an ophthalmologist for testing, teachers and parents can spot behavior and coping mechanisms related to vision problems, including:
- Excessive squinting
- Reccurring headaches
- Lack of hand-eye coordination
- An inability to read for extended periods of time
Crumpton said both students and parents have been very responsive and grateful to the screening program.
Based on the success of the Cincinnati screenings, OneSight is in the process of expanding the school-based model in New York City and other cities nationwide.
WATCH: OneSight visits 9 On Your Side (story continues below)
The OneSight Community Vision Care program began in 1988 when a group of LensCrafters employees had the idea to visit a school in North College Hill to help out with vision screenings. Over the past 25 years, OneSight has engaged thousands of volunteers and utilized their skills and expertise to deliver the gift of sight to an estimated 8.4 million people in 40 countries.