The Observatory

Reflections on orthoptics on World Orthoptic Day

World Orthoptic Day logo

Although many people don’t know what the word orthoptics means, all it takes is to ask a couple of very simple questions. “Have you ever had an eye test done? Was there a very helpful person you saw before and perhaps after the doctor?” Well, that’s an orthoptist.

I am often asked “what does an orthoptist do?” I have thought long and hard about this and here is my answer. Orthoptists are specialised eye health professionals who touch many facets of Australian society. Orthoptists push the boundaries of clinical excellence by modifying their approach to best suit the person, the environment and the diagnostic needs of the assessment. Orthoptists play an integral role in securing good outcomes for people with eye disease through their clinical expertise, patient engagement and support.

I also remind people that orthoptists assist health teams to understand the functional capabilities of a person and their visual strengths. Orthoptists help people maximise their residual vision and prepare for their future when vision may change. Without the expert skills of an orthoptist, the assessment and care of children and people with disability is at risk of falling short of the expectations of the individual and their family.

As an experienced orthoptist working in an academic role, my main objective is to educate people supporting individuals with vision impairment and disability. This includes learning about and understanding vision, visual functions, eye disease and the impact of vision impairment. My students are experienced teachers who support children with vision impairment in early intervention and through the school years; trainee orientation and mobility instructors; and parents and other health professionals who are seeking to know more about vision impairment. I teach into an online masters course offered by the University of Newcastle and also in short courses in a continuing professional education program. I also manage the Australian Childhood Vision Impairment Register which gathers data on children across Australia. This data is providing a snapshot of these children which has not previously been available, and is used by government and organisations to understand childhood vision impairment.

I am a proud member of the orthoptic profession, both locally and internationally. We are strong, passionate and collegiate in our approach to one another, to our partners in ophthalmology, to our patients and clients, to our novice orthoptists and other team members.

Happy World Orthoptic Day to all.

Sue wrote this blog in celebration of World Orthoptic Day. More information about World Orthoptic Day and orthoptics can be found on the Orthoptics Australia website

Orthoptics Australia are a Vision 2020 Australia Supporting Member.