Key vision loss statistics
- Many people with low vision wait too long before seeking help and support , putting them at an increased risk of falls, accidents and depression
- It is estimated by 2020, the number of Australians with a vision condition that can’t be corrected will rise 20% to 350,000 including 115,000 who are blind
- The prevalence of vision loss trebles with each decade of life over the age of 40
- Vision loss is predicted to cost around $6,000 per person over the age of 40 or $4.8 billion by 2020
- In 2006, vision disorders were Australia’s seventh most costly disease in terms of economic burden on the health industry, ahead of coronary heart disease, diabetes, depression and stroke
- 75% of vision loss is preventable with early intervention
With the incidence of vision loss increasing, a new website, www.visionloss.com.au, was launched today to enable people affected to know how and where to access services as quickly as possible.
Designed by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT the website is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia dedicated to the issue of vision loss.
Featuring sections on different vision conditions, information on local services, links to support groups and industry bodies, and an interactive discussion forum, it aims to provide eye-care professionals, people experiencing vision loss and the public with a single portal of information about eye health and the range of expert services available from optometrists through to the free specialist services provided by organisations like Guide Dogs.
“After many years working with the eye-health industry and people who are blind or vision impaired, we realised there was an opportunity to create a central online site about vision loss,” said Charles Ulm, Marketing and Communications Manager of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT
“We strongly encourage people experiencing trouble getting around because of vision loss to seek help early but were concerned they, their families and their eye-health professionals may not know how to quickly and easily find that help. www.visionloss.com.au is designed to be that solution.”
Prominent researcher and optometrist, Professor Michael Kalloniatis, Director at the Centre for Eye Health in Sydney where the website was launched, congratulated Guide Dogs on taking the initiative to develop a tool that would fill a gap in the industry.
“In many cases, once a person is diagnosed with a serious vision condition eye-health professionals may be unaware of the rehabilitation services available that can help that person maintain their independence and quality of life,” said Dr Kalloniatis.
“As an optometrist, it’s important I know how to advise patients appropriately and this website fills a gap in providing that information.
“Learning you are losing your vision can have a huge impact on your life, so it’s vital people in that situation know there are services and supports to help them maintain or regain quality of life.”
The website is accessible for people who are blind or vision impaired with features including options for text to be read by a screen reader, enlarged or even the contrast changed to make it easier to read.
Sydney resident Dr Helen Beange AM says she would have loved a website like www.visionloss.com.au when she started to lose her sight to age-related Macular Degeneration nine years ago at the age of 78.
“This website provides you with one central place for information about the various vision conditions, services available and a forum for sharing ideas,” says Dr Beange, whose vision impairment forced her retirement from her career as a well-known public health physician specialising in providing medical advice and support to people with intellectual disabilities.
“When I first started losing my vision it was difficult to accept and I found it hard to find information. It’s also a great tool for family members of people with a vision condition like mine so they can learn and understand the importance of getting their eyes checked.”
About Professor Michael Kalloniatis, B.Sc. (Optom) M.Sc. (Optom) Ph.D.
With expertise in retinal anatomy and neurochemistry, Kalloniatis is a highly experienced optometrist with a range of academic and research experience who has maintained clinical practice throughout his career. Both Kalloniatis' parents have experienced vision loss at the hands of eye disease, so his passion to prevent blindness through early diagnosis is augmented by personal first-hand understanding of the social impacts of vision loss.
About Guide Dogs NSW/ACT
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the leading provider of guide dogs and orientation and mobility services to enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities independently. Services include providing training and aids including long canes, guide dogs and electronic travel devices such as talking GPS technology. Visit www.guidedogs.com.au, call 1800 804 805, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
Sally Edgar, +61 413 753 241, firstname.lastname@example.org