Famous People with Vision Loss – Part II

Here is part two of our look at famous people with vision loss. The focus this time is the creative minds of artists, actors and musicians.
Famous People with Vision Loss Pat 2


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) – Best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes, she was recognized as the “Mother of American modernism”. In 1972, O’Keeffe’s eyesight was compromised by age-related macular degeneration (AMD), leading to the loss of central vision and leaving her with only peripheral vision. She stopped oil painting without assistance in 1972, but continued working in pencil and charcoal until 1984.

Claude Monet (1840-1926) – A French impressionist painter who had cataracts that blurred his vision and caused a severe loss of color perception. After complaining about his cataracts for ten years, he had cataract surgery in 1923. Those paintings before the surgery have more of a reddish tone, while those painted before his cataracts and after the surgery show more blue tones.

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) – A French artist known for his paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings. He had a chronic and progressive retinal disease that made him sensitive to light and caused him to lose his central vision. Frustrated by these limitations he switched to oil pastels because less precision was needed. He finally resorted to sculpting to be able to utilize his sense of touch and feeling in order to continue to create art.


Johnny Depp (1963-) – Known for his many movie roles, Depp doesn’t let his vision loss stop his career. Besides correcting his blurred vision, the tinted lenses of the glasses he wears also help with Meares-Irien ‘visual stress’ syndrome, which causes dizziness, discomfort and eye pain. He is also nearly blind in his left eye.

Issac Lidsky (1979-) – A child actor known for his part in the Saved by the Bell: The New Class TV series, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) at 13 and was completely blind by 25 years of age. He changed the course of his career, becoming a lawyer. He was a law clerk for Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2008-09, making him the the first blind US Supreme Court clerk.

Jon Weller (1975-) – A TV actor who has performed on many shows, he is best known for his recurring role of toxicologist Henry Andrews on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He has been diagnosed with RP.

Dame Judith Dench (1934-) – A actress has had a long career in theater and film, receiving many awards including ten BAFTAs, six Olivier Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award. She is well-known for the part of M in the James Bond series of films. In 2012 She announced that she has age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but has no intentions of slowing down. Scripts are now provided to her in a larger font.


Ray Charles (1930-2004) – He was born with congenital glaucoma which resulted in blindness by the age of 7. This American singer, songwriter, musician and composer, received multiple Grammys, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a Kennedy Centers Honoree.

Stevie Wonder (1950-) – He is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer who signed with Motown Records at the age of 12. He has won 25 Grammys and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He is blind due to retinopathy of prematurity due to excessive oxygen in his incubator when he was born.

Andrea Bocelli (1958-) – An Italian classical tenor, he was born with congenital glaucoma, but lost his vision at the age of 12 following a soccer accident in which he was hit in the head. He started playing piano when he was six, also learning the saxophone and flute. Bocelli has recorded fourteen solo studio albums, of both pop and classical music, three greatest hits albums, and nine complete operas, selling over 75 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) – An American jazz singer often referred to as the First Lady of Song. She also appeared on TV and in movies. She won 14 Grammy Awards, National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was diagnosed later in life with diabetic retinopathy due to her advanced diabetes, which also cost her both legs.

Do you know of any creative famous people You could add to this list? Please share them below in the comments.


Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Famous People with Vision Loss – Part I

With all the recent news about Rosanne Barr’s vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma, I thought it would be interesting to see other famous people with vision loss who didn’t let it stop their impact on the world around them. Today’s post will focus on writers, politicians, business and military leaders, scientists. Thursday we will explore artists, actors and musicians.
Famous people with vision loss


Harper Lee (1926-) – Best known for her 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning book To Kill a Mockingbird, she has been diagnosed with AMD. Her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, which was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird, will be published this July.

John Milton (1608-1674) – English poet who wrote the poem Paradise Lost, among others, and became blind at the age of 43.

Alice Walker (1944-) – American author and activist who wrote The Color Purple which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1983. She was blinded in one eye as a child when shot with a BB gun.

Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) – American newspaper publisher who established the prestigious journalism award, the Pulitzer Prize. He became blind at the age of 42 due to a retinal detachment.

James Thurber (1894-1961) – American humorist who switched his attention from sports to writing when his brother shot him in the eye with an arrow while recreating the legend of William Tell shooting the apple off his son’s head.

James Joyce (1882-1941) – Irish novelist and poet who had numerous eye surgeries for various conditions starting with iritis.

Stephen King (1947-) – American author of contemporary horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. He has been diagnosed with AMD.


Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) – British naval admiral lost an eye as a young seaman. He was said to have used this to his advantage by raising his telescope to his blind and then claim not to see the flags of surrender being raised by enemy ships.

Thomas Gore (1870-1949) – Blinded as a child, he became the first senator from Oklahoma and the first blind member of the US Senate.

Steve Wynn (1942-) – A well-known business leader having helped build up Las Vegas, and the owner of The Wynn and The Encore resorts, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in 1971 and declared legally blind in 2010.

David Alexander Paterson (1954-) – He was the first African American Governor of New York and the second legally blind governor of any state, after Bob Riley of Arkansas. Paterson became blind at the age of three months when an ear infection spread to his optic nerve.

Willie Brown (1934-) – He spent over 30 years in the California State Assembly and served as the first African American Mayor of San Francisco for eight years. He has retinitis pigmentosa.

Hellen Keller (1880-1968) – She was an American activist, lecturer and author. She was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college. At the age of 19 months she came down with infection that left her deaf and blind. She inspired the Lions Clubs International to become “knight of the blind,” leading them to focus their community service efforts toward vision-related causes.

Science & Medicine

Dr. Jacob Bolotin (1888-1961) – Was the first congenitally blind person to receive a medical license. This Chicago physician’s specialties were diseases of the heart and lungs.

John Glenn (1921-) – He was the first man to orbit the earth in 1963 on the Friendship 7 mission. He suffers from glaucoma.

Joseph Plateau (1801-1883) – Belgian physicist who invented an early stroboscopic device, the phenakistiscope, in 1836 that allowed still images to create an animated effect. It eventually led to the development of cinema. He performed an experiment in which he gazed directly into the sun for 25 seconds, leading to his eventual blindness.

Join us next Tuesday for part two.


Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Your Comprehensive Eye Exam

Your Comprehensive Eye Exam

Being able to see clearly is important to all of us. But it is also something we have a tendency to take for granted until we notice changes in our vision. The point of the yearly comprehensive exam is to monitor your eyes before any problems arise, and address any concerns that could affect your vision later. Here is what to expect at your next comprehensive eye exam.

An eye exam involves an external examination of your eyes followed by a series of tests designed to evaluate your vision and check for eye diseases. Each test evaluates a different aspect of your vision and includes specific tests for visual acuity, pupil function, muscle function, visual fields, eye pressure and viewing the back of the eye through a dilated pupil.
cross section of eye - eye exam
External Exam
The external examination consists of inspecting the eyelids, surrounding tissues and the eyeball including the sclera (white part of the eye), iris and cornea.

Visual Acuity & Fields
Visual acuity is your eye’s ability to detect fine details and see an in-focus image at a certain distance. A Snellen chart and a phoropter are used. The standard definition of normal visual acuity is 20/20. The term 20/20 comes from even sized objects that can be seen by a “person of normal vision” atvisual acuity eye exam the specified distance. For example, if a person can see at a distance of 20 feet an object that normally can be seen at 20 feet, then they have 20/20 vision. If they can see at 20 feet what a normal person can see at 40 feet, then they have 20/40 vision. For the visual acuity test each eye is tested separately to gauge your side or peripheral vision.

Pupil Functionpupil function eye exam
An examination of the pupil begins with inspecting your pupils for equal size, regular shape, reaction to light, and direct and consensual reaction (meaning the pupil of one eye constricts when the other eye is exposed to light).

Eye Muscle Function
Eye movement is assessed two ways. First by having you move your eye quickly to a target at the far right, left, top and bottom. Then by slow tracking which uses the ‘follow my finger’ test, which tests all the muscles that move your eye.

tonometer eye examEye Pressure Measurement
Intraocular pressure, or IOP, is measured using a tonometer to determine the fluid pressure inside your eye. This test provides information regarding your potential for glaucoma.

Viewing the Back of the Eyedilated eye - eye exam
Increasing the size of your pupil with eye drops (known as dilating your eyes) allows the doctor to have a larger view of the back of your eye, including the retina, as demonstrated by this diagram. This is very important for diagnosis and tracking of macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Eye Structureslit lamp eye exam
A special, high-powered microscope, called a slit-lamp, is used to view the structures of your eye clearly and in detail, enabling early diagnosis of a variety of eye conditions such as cataracts, presbyopia and corneal injury.

Taking care of your eyes, especially as you become older, is very important. Changes in vision may be gradual, or fast, but in both cases, early diagnosis is key to successful treatment and retaining your vision. It is suggested that individuals 40 and over have a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years. Exceptions would be if you have diabetes, in which case you should see your eye doctor yearly; or there is a family history of eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or corneal diseases, which may require more frequent visits to your eye doctor. If you have any degree of sudden vision loss, eye pain, or significant irritation, contact your eye doctor immediately.


Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Driving and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Driving and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The issue of driving and age-related macular degeneration is a particularly sensitive one for seniors losing their vision. Driving means independence and most people want to hold on to their cars as long as possible. When is it time to stop?
Driving and Age-related Macular Degeneration
A research survey by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Age-Lab and The Hartford Financial Services Group involved 3,824 drivers over age 50, asking them how and why they limited their driving.

The study found that two-thirds of the drivers self-regulated their activities in the car, restricting their driving for certain condition. Time of day was a common factor, with some people choosing to stay home at night or dusk. Bad weather conditions and heavy traffic were other conditions. Over time, drivers developed conscious strategies to compensate for failing vision, slower reflexes and stiffer joints.

Statistically, older drivers are actually very safe drivers, although over age 75, the accident rate per mile increases. The study found that health and medical conditions contributed far more to driving restrictions than age alone.

About ten percent of the nation’s drivers are over 65. However, by 2030, when one in five Americans are over age 65, this percentage will skyrocket. Consider that 23-40% of people over age 65 have macular degeneration – that ís a lot of drivers with a potential visual impairment.

Making the Decision

If your macular degeneration is causing a problem when you drive, you are most likely aware of it. Or, perhaps a friend or family member has pointed it out to you. Does this mean you should immediately stop driving? Not necessarily.

What you should do immediately is ask yourself some critical questions. How are you functioning when you drive during the day? What about dusk, dawn and cloudy days? Bright sunlight? At night?

Here are six important questions:

  1. Do you have difficulties reading clearly and rapidly all the instruments on a carís dashboard?
  2. Do you have difficulties reading road signs, or if you are currently driving, do you notice and understand the signs in time to react to them with comfort?
  3. Do other cars on the road appear to “pop” into and out of your field of vision unexpectedly?
  4. While on the road, do you drive well below the speed limit and slower than most cars around you?
  5. Do you have difficulties positioning yourself on the road, with respect to other cars, lane markers, curves, sidewalks, parking spaces, etc.?
  6. Do you find yourself feeling confused and/or disoriented on the road?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may want to suspend your driving until you consult a specialist. If your answers indicate that you may have a problem under certain conditions (i.e., dim light or night) you may want to suspend your driving under those conditions until you consult a specialist further.

This questionnaire is from an excellent book, “Driving With Confidence, A Practical Guide to Driving With Low Vision” by Eli Peli and Doron Peli. Dr. Eli Peli is a Senior Scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. Their book contains a practical program to help you maximize your chances of retaining your driving privileges. It also provides a detailed description of driving vision regulations in every state as does the AAA website.

Other Useful Resources

AARP Driver Safety Program – Largest classroom driver refresher course specially designed for motorists age 50 and older. It is intended to help older drivers improve their skills while teaching them to avoid accidents and traffic violations.

AAA Safety Foundation for Traffic – Tips on driving and resources for other transportation options.


There are many ways to stay safe and maintain your independence. Just be attentive to your own abilities and find out all you can about your options.


Judi Delgado - age-related macular degenerationJudith Delgado
Executive Director
Macular Degeneration Partnership
A program of Discovery Eye Foundation

How to Help a Blind or Visually Impaired Person with Mobility

You as a Guide
As the spouse, partner or friend of a person that has low or no vision, it is hard to know when to step and help. You don’t want to offend them by jumping in and making them feel incapable, nor do you want to stand by and have them stumble along, possibly hurting themselves.
blind or visually impaired person with mobility
Here are few pointers to help a blind or visually impaired person with mobility so you can be supportive and considerate.

  • First and most importantly, never assume the person wants or needs your help. Always ask first and never force the person to accept your help.
  • If your offer of help is accepted, ask if the person would like you on their right or left, then the tap them with your appropriate elbow so the person needing help can grasp slightly above the elbow.
  • Relax and walk at a comfortable, consistent pace, about a half step ahead.
  • When navigating obstacles, guiding signals, along with verbal cues, are helpful. Examples:
    Curb – brief pause and state “we are approaching a curb and it is slanted upwards.”
    Narrow door or passage – you enter first moving your guiding arm behind the small of your back and let them know you are moving through a doorway or narrow space and which direction the door opens so they can move to the appropriate side.
  • Stairs – stop at the edge of the first step and let the other person know if the steps are up or down, where the railing is (make sure it is on the side of their free hand), and if there is anything special about the steps (they are uneven, very steep, have an overly wide tread, etc.). If there are just a few steps let them know, “you will take 4 steps down.” The will follow one step behind you, with one hand on the handrail and the other holding your arm. Pause after completing the stairs.
  • Escalators and revolving doors – Use similar guiding cues as you do for the stairs. Let them know when to step onto the escalator and when to get ready to get off. If the person you are guiding is uncomfortable with escalators or revolving doors, use the elevator and regular doors which all buildings are required to have.
  • Chair – when approaching a chair, place the hand of the person being guided on the back or side of the chair, letting them know which direction the chair is facing.
  • Never leave a person who is blind or visually impaired in “free space.” Make sure they are in contact with a wall, railing or some other stable object until you return.

If They Use a Guide Dog
Guide dogs are invaluable to people that are blind or partially sighted. They allow their owners a sense of independence. But how should you respond to a guide dog who is working?blind or visually impaired person with mobility

  • Never distract the dog from its duty, so don’t pet the dog without asking.
  • Before asking a questions of a person handling a dog, allow them to complete the task at hand.
  • Remain calm when you approach, never teasing or speaking to the dog.
  • Do not offer the dog food or other treats. They are fed on a schedule and follow a specific diet to keep them healthy. Deviations from their routine can disrupt their regular and ad relieving schedules, seriously inconveniencing their handlers.
  • Do not offer toys to a guide dog. Though they are treated as pets when they are not in their harnesses, they are only allowed specific toys. In their harness they don’t play with toys.
  • Do not call out to the guide dog or obstruct its path, as it can break the dog’s concentration which could prove to be dangerous to its handler.
  • In some cases the person with low or no vision may prefer to take your arm above the elbow and allow their dog to heel instead of lead. Follow the same instructions as in the first part of this blog. When approaching stairs, ask how the person how they wish to proceed, as they will be holding your arm with one hand and the guide dog with the other, making it impossible to grasp a handrail.

Giving Directions To Someone Who is Blind or Visually Impaired
If a person is on their own with a guide dog or white cane, giving complete accurate directions is necessary. While you may be used to pointing or saying “it is over there,” or “go around the next corner,” if you can’t see you have no idea where “there” is or the “next corner.”

  • Always refer to a specific direction from the perspective of the person you are advising. Your right is their left.
  • Indicate the approximate distance in addition to the direction.
  • Give the approximate number of streets to cross to reach the destination. Even if you are off a block or two, it gives the person an idea of when to stop and ask for further instructions if needed.
  • If possible, provide information about landmarks on the way. Remember that sounds, scents and ground textures can be landmarks. You can hear an escalator, smell the scent of fresh brewed coffee and feel the difference between grass and a sidewalk.


Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Do I Need Vision Insurance?

With the rising costs of health insurance, many people are looking for ways to reduce their costs. Since not all insurance packages include vision insurance, many people wonder, do I need vision insurance?
vision insurance

Standard Vision Insurance

Vision insurance is a type of health insurance that entitles you to specific eye care benefits such as routine eye exams and other procedures, as well as a specified dollar mount or discount for the purchase of eyeglasses and contact lenses. It only supplements regular health insurance and is designed to help reduce your costs for routine preventative eye care and eyewear.

You can get vision insurance as part of a group, such as your employer, an association, etc., through a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid, or as an individual. It is often a benefit linked to your regular HMO (health maintenance organization) or PPO (preferred provider organization) health insurance.

There are two primary vision insurance plans available:

  • Vision Benefits Package – provides free eye care services and eyewear within a fixed dollar amount for which you pay an annual premium or membership fee and a small co-pay. It may also include a deductible.
  • Discount Vision Plan – provides eye care and eyewear at a discounted rate after you pay an annual premium or membership fee.

Both insurance plans generally include:

  • Annual eye exams
  • Eyeglass frames (usually once every 24 months)
  • Eyeglass lenses (usually once every 24 months)
  • Contact lenses (usually once every 24 months)
  • Discounted rates for LASIK and PRK

Here is where you can check for a list of some vision insurance providers.

Medicare and Medicaid

Different kinds of vision care are included in the US government programs, Medicare and Medicaid. These programs are for qualifying American age 65 and older, individuals with specific disabilities and people with low income.

The Types of Medicare For Vision:

    • Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) –Medical eye problems that require a hospital emergency room attention, but routine eye exams are NOT covered.
    • Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) – Visits to an eye doctor that are related to an eye disease, but routine eye exams are NOT covered.
    • Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) – Will help pay for prescription medications for eye diseases.

If you have Medicare Parts A & B you are generally eligible for the following vision coverage, however, there is a deductible before Medicare will start to pay, at which point you will still be paying a percentage of the remaining costs.

  • Cataract surgery – covers many of the cost including a standard intraocular lens (IOL). If you chose a premium IOL to correct your eyesight and reduce your need for glasses, you must pay for this added cost out-of-pocket.
  • Eyewear after cataract surgery – one pair of standard eyeglasses OR contact lenses.
  • Glaucoma screening – an annual screening for people at high risk for glaucoma, including people with diabetes or a family history, and African-Americans whom are 50 or older.
  • Ocular prostheses – costs related to the replacement and maintenance of an artificial eye.

There is also Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) which is sold by private insurance companies to supplement only Medicare Parts A & B. It is intended to cover your share of the costs of Medicare-covered services including coinsurance, co-payments and deductibles. For more details about Medicare plans and coverage check their website or call 800-633-4227.

Medicaid is the US health program that gives medical benefits to low-income people who may have no or inadequate medical insurance. A person eligible for Medicaid may be asked to make a co-payment at the time medical service is provided. Vision benefits for children under the age of 21 include eye exams, eyeglass frames and lenses. Each state determines how often these services are provided and some states offer similar vision services to adults. To learn more about Medicaid eligibility requirements and vision benefits call your state’s Medicaid agency or visit their website.
vision dial - vision insurance

Defined Contribution Health Plans

A way to lower your vison care costs is to take part in a defined contribution health plan (DCHP). You are given a menu of health care benefits to choose from where a portion of the fees you receive for health coverage come from money that is deducted from our paycheck before federal, state and social security taxes are calculated. Four types of DCHP are:

Cafeteria Plans – your employer takes a portion of your salary and deposits it into a non-taxable account for health care spending. The amount taken depends on the number and costs of the benefits you select.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) – your employer takes a predetermined portion of your pre-tax salary and deposits it into health care account for you to pay medical expenses. But generally preventative care such as routine eye exams and are not reimbursable. Nor are eyeglasses and contact lenses reimbursable. You would need to verify with your employer. If you do not use all the money at the end of a 12 month period, the money goes back to your employer.

Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) – this is similar to an FSA except you can use it for preventative care like eye exams and you do not lose the money if it isn’t spent within a certain time period as it can be carried from year to year.

Health Savings Account (HSA) – it can be employer-sponsored of you can set up one independently; however you must purchase a high-deductible health insurance plan to open an HSA and you cannot exceed the annual deductible of your health insurance plan. You cannot be enrolled in Medicare of be a depended on someone else’s tax return. You can use it for preventive care such as eye exams. You can learn more about HSAs by visiting the US Treasury’s website.

There are a variety of options when it comes to vision insurance. You just need to determine your needs and ask providers the correct questions.


Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

6 Ways Women Can Stop Vision Loss

Women account for 53% of the world’s population. However, 2/3 of the blind and visually impaired people in the world are women. While 80% of these women are in developing countries, women in developed countries like the US are still more likely to face vision loss than men.
women can stop vision loss

Why are women more prone to eye disease than men?

Women are the caregivers in families, taking care of the health of family members over themselves. In addition, with many having jobs outside the home, they don’t feel they have the time to go to the doctor until something major happens, especially related to vision.

Women live longer than men are at greater risk for age-related eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.

Women are more likely to develop several autoimmune diseases that can affect their eyes including, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sj?gren’s syndrome.

75% of new breast cancer diagnosed each year is estrogen-sensitive. A common part of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer treatment includes the prescription of tamoxifen. More studies are being done, but cataracts due to tamoxifen have been identified in about 10% of the patients taking the drug.

What can women do to lessen their chances for eye disease?

Know your family history as genetics play and important role in your eye health, so know what eye diseases run in your family. Let your eye doctor know so he can look for early warning signs that can help prevent of lessen the conditions in you.

Get routine comprehensive, dilated eye exams starting at the age of 40, to create a baseline for your doctor to work from. After that you can go every 2-4 years until the age of 60. At 60+ have a compressive, dilated exam every two years if you are symptom-free and low risk.

Eat healthy and exercise. It is important to maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of some eye diseases. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is also important as they can contain carotenoids an some antioxidants that appear to help with vision retention. It should also be noted that in many studies, supplements did not show the same beneficial effects as whole foods.

Stop smoking! You not only increase your risk for cancer and heart disease, but smoking is the only thing besides advancing age that has been proven to be directly related to AMD.

Avoid ultraviolet light by wearing sunglasses (with wide-brimmed hats) and indoor glasses with UV protection. While everyone knows the sun is a source of UV light, so are electronic screens such as your TV, computer, tablet or smartphone. Prescription glasses and readers can have a clear UV coating put on them that will not distort your color vision. If you don’t need vision correction, there is eyewear with no correction that is coated to protect your eyes to avoid dry eye and retinal damage.

Use cosmetics and contacts safely. Always wash your hands first. Throw away old makeup and lens solutions. Do not share cosmetics or apply while driving. Make sure to clean your lenses thoroughly before putting them in your eyes.

Because women are relied upon to take care of the family, vision loss that can impact that responsibility can be devastating to the entire family. And later in life, when they may have outlived a spouse, the isolation and depression can destroy their quality of life as they try to cope on their own.

Reach out to women you know and remind them to take an active part in their own healthcare. Especially with regards to their vision, when women are at a higher risk of vision loss than men.


Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Vision and Special Needs Children

In the United States, special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological. Different types of special needs vary in severity. People with autism, Down syndrome, dyslexia, blindness, ADHD, or cerebral palsy, for example, may be considered to have special needs. Statistics tell us that among children ages 3 to 17, nearly 15 percent have one or more developmental disabilities. For many of these children, the kinds of disabilities they experience may require special approaches to providing care, education and/or other accommodations.
eye exam - vision and special needs children
The way a special needs child behaves or reacts can sometimes be unexpected because he/she processes sensory information differently than other children. Having the right cues in our environment can mean the difference between participation and non-participation in medical care for many of these children. Our work environment should always be arranged in a way to achieve physical and emotional comfort for the child. Patience, attentive listening, caring, and building a trusting relationship with a family and child who may be undervalued in other settings are all critical to providing good medical care.

Vision and Special Needs Children

Children with special needs are referred to pediatric ophthalmologists on a regular basis. Many of these children do not respond appropriately to standard vision screening procedures. Unidentified vision problems in this special population can further impact growth and development. The role of pediatric ophthalmologists is to ensure that the child does not have any eye conditions that could potentially interfere with his/her learning opportunities, personal development and/or overall wellbeing.

Down syndrome:
Down syndrome continues to be the most common chromosomal disorder. Each year, about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome, which is about 1 in every 700 babies born. It is estimated that more than 80% of these patients have some clinically significant ocular pathology. Such conditions include refractive error requiring glasses (70%), strabismus (45%), and nystagmus (35%). Other common eye problems include blepharitis, blocked tear duct, eyelid ptosis, cataracts, and keratoconus (irregularly shaped cornea). The improved quality of medical care and educational resources have allowed for a more productive life and a longer life expectancy for people with Down syndrome. Their quality of life can be further enhanced by the proper assessment and correction of eye problems.

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data on the prevalence of autism in the United States. This surveillance study identified 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autistic behaviors may include visual components such as lack of eye contact, starring at light or spinning objects, fleeting peripheral glances, side viewing and difficulty attending visually. An eye examination is essential in order to detect an eye condition that could potentially explain these visual behaviors. According to a study published in the June 2013 issue of Strabismus, more than 40 percent of children with autism have strabismus, or crossed eyes. This work is limited in that the researchers did not use a representative sample of children with autism. Still, the prevalence of eye problems in autism appears to be several times higher than that of the general population.
boy eye exam - vision and special needs children
Learning Disabilities:
Dyslexia is the most common neurobehavioral disorder affecting children. Visual abnormalities have not been found to affect the brain’s ability to process visual stimuli and children with learning disabilities have no increased incidence of ophthalmologic disease. However, ophthalmologic consultation should be provided to children who fail vision screening tests. This allows for diagnosis and therapy of treatable ocular conditions such as refractive errors and eye muscle imbalances.

Children with ADHD, cerebral palsy, or any other neurodevelopmental disorders should also have periodic vision screenings. Children who do not pass the vision screening should be referred to an ophthalmologist with experience in the care of children.

Physicians are not the only adults involved in the care of special needs children. At increasing rates, children with special needs are being provided with the same life experiences as their non-disabled peers. Taking part in a sport or joining a group like the Scouts, are popular activities for children. Children with disabilities are encouraged to join in such activities to help improve their health and give them opportunities to make friends. As a result, more and more adults in the community are finding themselves working with these children on a regular basis.

When considering ways to work with special needs children, we have to keep in mind that every child is different. A positive attitude and patience are probably the two most important qualities for anyone who works with these children. Parents of special needs children focus on helping their child to be “the best he/she can be”. The devotion and care these parents provide for their child have been an inspiration, and I always look forward to my visits with them.


Dr. Chantal BoisvertChantal Boisvert, OD, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor
Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, UC Irvine
Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus