Dr. Leah Johnson shares her experience supporting Special Olympics athletes

by Leah Johnson, OD, FAAO, Director of Professional Affairs, CooperVision Specialty EyeCare, Americas

Part of CooperVision’s mission is to help people to see better each day. Together with Optometry Giving Sight (OGS), we partnered with the Special Olympics Lions Club Foundation Opening Eyes® program to do just that. At the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, our teams banded together to provide more than 2,000 free vision and eye health screenings for Special Olympics athletes.

Research shows that individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) have some of the lowest access to vision care and have a higher prevalence of ocular findings including astigmatism, nystagmus, and strabismus—also known as eye alignment.As an optometrist and CooperVision employee, I feel a sense of responsibility to close the gap to access to vision care for people with ID.

Globally, 35% of Special Olympics athletes need new prescription glasses, and 23% have never even had a proper eye exam. I am incredibly grateful to have participated in the event and to have played a role in continuing to bring the benefits of Opening Eyes® to this underserved population.

In addition to providing on-site screenings, CooperVision and OGS also provided clinical training videos for eye care professionals (ECPs) and optometry students. Volunteers in attendance received training on inclusive vision care to help them better understand how to meet the unique needs of this marginalized group—not only at the USA Games, but back home at their own practices.

This year was my first year participating in the Olympic Games, but it certainly won’t be my last. It was a privilege being able to work alongside other practitioners to provide comprehensive vision services to athletes in need. I look forward to continuing to build awareness and enable greater access to eye care through this continued partnership.

To learn more about the Special Olympics Lions Club International Foundation Opening Eyes® program, please visit https://resources.specialolympics.org/health/opening-eyes.



https://www.lionsclubs.org/en/blog/Students-Have-Their-Eyes-Opened-to-the-Critical-Needs-of-the-Marginalized-Community#:~:text=Globally%2C%2035%25%20of%20Special%20Olympics,has%20been%20addressing%20these%20problems [lionsclubs.org].

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