Project information

Children in Focus Campaign

Disabled children are missing out on the eye care they need with a potentially devastating impact on their lives. SeeAbility wants specialist sight tests available for the 100,000 children in special schools in England. We want an equal right to sight for children with disabilities.

October 2013 - March 2018

Charity information: SeeAbility (The Royal School for the Blind)

SeeAbility (The Royal School for the Blind) logo
  • Need


    Children with learning disabilities are 28 times more likely to have a serious sight problem than other youngsters but are the least likely to have a sight test. There are 100,000 children at special schools. Children with disabilities can find an eye test at the local opticians impossible: new situations, people and places can be very stressful or they may be unable to communicate verbally. Their eye care is being neglected and yet the need for support for these children is the most critical.


    Our specialist optometrists are sight testing in special schools, a safe, familiar and convenient place for these children. We supply, fit and fix the right glasses for each child in school. We communicate with teachers and families so a child has the right support for their visual impairment and to ensure they get used to wearing their glasses. We are building a good evidence base to campaign for a new national programme of sight testing in special schools to effect long term change.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To transform the eye care and vision of children with disabilities.


    » We are offering specialist sight tests in 9 pilot special schools in London, Durham and Buckinghamshire. We need funds to expand our pilot.
    » We supply and fit the best frames for each child and their disability. We are on hand to fix and adjust their glasses too.
    » We communicate with teachers and families so each child has the right support for their visual impairment and to get used to wearing their glasses.
    » We are building a good evidence base to campaign for a new national programme of sight testing in special schools.

    Success will be NHS England developing a funded national programme, to deliver equality of access to free annual NHS sight tests to children in special schools.

  • Impact


    Our project will save children with disabilities from years of undiagnosed visual impairment and a lifetime affected by missed opportunities in childhood. A special schools service can prevent permanent/unnecessary sight loss for relatively low cost, reducing costs to the NHS and social care. In the last academic year, 43% of the new pupils we saw had no history of eye care. Success will be when all children with disabilities can access an annual specialist sight test in their special school.


    Specialist sight testing is already taking place in 9 pilot schools. But there is a risk that we could fail to raise the necessary voluntary income to grow to offer specialist sight tests to more children with disabilities. We need to fund our optometrists, dispensing opticians and policy officer to bring about this long term change. We have secured nearly half the money we need and are investing in fundraising to reduce this risk.


    Supporters will receive regular updates sharing research findings and case studies. For key major donors, it may be possible to arrange a visit to one of the pilot schools or to meet a member of our specialist team. Seeing the work first hand is truly inspiring.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £50,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £50,000 Specialist sight tests Reaching 588 children with disabilities with specialist eye care in their special school
  • Background


    We are campaigning for change throughout England. SeeAbility’s Children in Focus pilot schools are currently in London (Greenwich, Brent and Merton), Buckinghamshire and Durham. We are working in conjunction with Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Science. A range of downloadable resources are available at for health professionals, parents and teachers to use regardless of their location.


    Children with disabilities, including autism: treatable sight conditions will result in a positive impact upon their education, development and behaviour. Our project has found that 75% of the children with no history of eye care had autism.
    Parents and teachers: from understanding what the child’s visual diagnosis means and how best to support the child.
    The NHS and hospital eye clinics: a special schools service is an efficient model which reduces long term costs to the NHS and social care.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    We have delivered over 1,000 specialist eye tests to date, whilst gathering research evidence. We were delighted to be awarded the first ever NHS contract to work in special schools in England in 2015, which contributes around 25% of the true cost of a specialist sight test. We continue to raise awareness with Ministers to bring about systemic change.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Paula Spinks-Chamberlain - Director Of Advisory Services

    Everyone has an equal right to sight. We now have a sight testing model that can be rolled out nationally.

    Lisa Donaldson - Clinical Lead, Children In Focus

    Someone does not need to be able to read, speak or even communicate, for us to check their vision or eye health. This work is life changing.

    Ned Saunders - Dispensing Optician

    SeeAbility's model is a complete pathway of care. It is efficient and works well for the child, parents, school and for us as eye care professionals.


per sight test can give a child with disabilities the right to sight and open up their world

We have children whose lives have been transformed by SeeAbility. But thousands of children are missing out and they are the most vulnerable in our society. That has got to be wrong.

Kay Charles, Head Teacher at The Village School in North London