#BreakingBarriers to accessing eye care

This week is National Eye Health week, a time to raise awareness of the importance of good eye health.

Adults with learning disabilities are ten times more likely to suffer from serious eye conditions than the general population. This means it is even more important for anyone with a learning disability to have regular eye checks and to take preventative steps to keep eyes healthy.

For anyone with complex medical issues, eye health is often overlooked. Regardless of general health, everyone should and can have access to regular eye checks. Eye checks are used to look at eye sight, and can also be helpful in diagnosing other health issues.

Should I have an eye check?

Yes. Everyone should have an eye test every two years with an optician (eye doctor). Some people with learning disabilities might need eye checks more often.

When booking an appointment with your local optician, let them know of any adjustments needed to support you during your appointment.

If you don’t already have an optician, the helpful link below shows opticians close to where you live, and the support they can offer to someone with a learning disability.

Find your nearest optician here.

What happens during an eye test?

Here is a video that explains what happens during an eye test.

Wearing glasses

After your eye test, you may be told that you need to wear glasses. Glasses will help you to see more clearly.

Here are some top tips for wearing glasses.

If you support someone who has been prescribed glasses, this factsheet gives practical advice on how to give support and detect any potential issues.

Spotting sight issues in others

If you support someone with a learning disability, it might not always be obvious if they are having problems with their sight or eye health. Things to look out for that might signal poor eye sight:

  • Holding objects close to their face
  • Unusual head movements or shaking their head from side to side
  • Dislike of bright light, low light or both
  • Increase in falls, trips or knocks to the body
  • Requiring more support when in new environments
  • Searching for objects with their hands or knocking over items
  • Changes to the eye e.g. redness, swelling or discharge

If you spot any of these signs, it is important to book an appointment with an optician.

I’m an optician. What support can I give patients with learning disabilities?

The most important thing to remember when examining a patient with learning disabilities is to explain what you are going to do in a clear and calm manner, making sure that they are comfortable before going ahead. You may need to use hand gestures or images to support your patient’s understanding.

RNIB have shared their top tips for optometrists treating patients with learning disabilities.

Difficult words explained

When talking about eye health, some difficult words might be used. Here we explain them:

  • Optician – eye doctor
  • Optometrist – another word for eye doctor
  • Vision – how well you can see
  • Cataract – when your eye looks a bit cloudy and your eye sight becomes blurry
  • Glaucoma – a disease that affects how well you can see
  • Long-sighted – when you find it hard to see things close to you
  • Short-sighted – when you find it hard to see things far away from you

Keeping busy

A blog by Emily

I am Emily, a Sunnybank Trust ambassador. 

It has been a funny year, with so many months coming in and out of lockdown.

The Sunnybank Trust have been busy running several different zoom meetings. This has kept us busy and given us things to do to help us get through the lockdowns. 

Lately we have been meeting up face to face again. We have cage cricket, run by Neil and Claire. This is sponsored by the Lords Taverners. In the coming months we are doing a first aid course, we’ll also be making T-shirts with our logo.Then we hope to play some cricket matches when it is safe to do so. 

We have coffee and chat in Alexandra Park, weather permitting. We have started a wellbeing gardening course at the Sunnybank allotment, followed by an Arts and Crafts session.

The Futures group have meetings called ‘everyone’s talking about it’ and ’catch up’ both on zoom. We go to the virtual pub every Friday evening for a quiz.

To find out more about our activities, and how to get involved, visit our website.

Wonderful Wisley

On 24th August, members of The Sunnybank Trust met with the team from RHS Wisley for a workshop at Wisley’s fabulous new Hill Top Centre. 

With the beautiful gardens in the background, the day provided a great learning opportunity for both Sunnybank members and the Wisley team.

Whilst the Sunnybank members enjoyed learning about a wide range of plants, the Wisley team had the opportunity to find out more from us about learning disabilities and how to provide a great experience for people with hidden disabilities such as learning disabilities.

Sunnybank member Emily shares her thoughts on the day:

“RHS Wisley asked if some Sunnybank members would like to try out their new Education Centre with activities specifically designed for people with a learning disability/autism. 

We were also given free tickets for carers and parents who were bringing members to the activity. We all went into their new Education centre, to a room reserved just for us to use. 

Firstly, we went outside to look at their vegetables. As anyone who has been out with Sunnybank, and the staff who come along, we like to join in!

As you can see in the pictures below, Faith and Dorothy picked up some great ideas for the Sunnybank allotment and we learnt a lot about gardening. 

As we had our lunch, Sunnybank staff member Jon, kept working by interviewing Wisley staff. After lunch we had a look around the Gardens. Then we split into 2 groups and did feedback and visited the centre. This time it was Claire and I who came up with ideas for the allotment.”

Futures Manager, Claire Dawson, comments on the day, “What was so good about the day is that everyone involved got to learn something new from each other. I am looking forward to putting all the ideas everyone had into action and tasting some of the results.”

Living in an inaccessible world – Matt’s story

Friend of Sunnybank, Matt, shared his accessibility story with us in a recent Sunny Sessions radio interview.

Born with Cerebral Palsy, Matt lives with vision impairment, dyslexia and a curvature of the spine.

Matt’s disabilities mean that he is unable to leave the house without the assistance of family, friends or his Personal Assistant.

DJ Jon recently recorded an interview with Matt whilst walking around his local area. Matt shared first hand the challenges he faces on a daily basis due to the inaccessibility of the public spaces where he lives.

Using his power chair, Matt faced his first challenge almost as soon as he left his house when he reached a grass verge near his local shop.  Motorists regularly park on the verge while visiting the shop which has resulted in the verge sinking and developing a large hole beneath the grass. The hole can’t easily be seen, particularly for anyone with a visual impairment. This concealed and dangerous hole has resulted in Matt getting stuck and causing damage to his chair on many occasions. 

Once he navigated the dangerous verge, Matt showed Jon how crossing the road to get to his local shop can also be difficult as the drop-down kerb that enables him to access the shop isn’t well signposted meaning motorists often park across it, leaving Matt stranded and unable to get into the shop. 

While he has lived his whole life facing challenges with accessibility and has found some ways to get around the obstacles, there are still many places that he is unable to visit, such as his local post office and pub garden. 

Every journey Matt makes takes a huge amount of planning, taking away any option of spontaneity that many of us might take for granted. 
Many Sunnybank members face similar challenges, unable to live their lives in the way they choose, limited to a small number of accessible places. 

To hear Matt’s full Sunny Sessions interview with DJ Jon, catch up here.

If you come across an accessibility issue in a public area in Surrey, you can report it here.  

Ready, set, go!

Over the past two weeks, we have all been amazed by the achievements of our Paralympians in Tokyo. We have been watching in admiration as the athletes, who have undoubtedly faced barriers to sport in their lives, have triumphed and achieved such incredible things.

While we ourselves may not be Olympians, we are so inspired by what is possible when opportunities are available to people with disabilities.

At Sunnybank we really understand how sport, fitness and being active can benefit our mental health, our physical health and foster confidence and self-esteem.

Over the summer months we have been meeting members weekly, and with the support of Surrey Cricket Foundation, have had lots of fun playing cricket. Most recently we have had the opportunity to be taught to play Boccia.  Coming together weekly and taking part sports has allowed our members to:

  • re-connect with friends
  • build new relationships
  • learn new skills
  • increase fitness levels
  • develop a routine

Here are some photos showing just how joyous being active can be.


Earlier this week, DJ Jon interviewed Abdul from Mencap for our Sunny Sessions radio show. Adbul has mild learning disabilities and works for Mencap as a Sports Trainer and Tutor. Abdul shared his story and his passion for sports, and getting people with learning disabilities involved.

To hear from Abdul, and to find out more about sports inclusion and the barriers that people with learning disabilities often come across, catch up with our Sunny Sessions show here.