Today, October 14th, is World Sight Day when Fighting Blindness, the only Irish charity funding research into treatments for sight loss, joins vision organisations around the world to emphasise the need for good vision.
Over a quarter of a million people in Ireland are blind or vision impaired. Fighting Blindness aims to create awareness about the importance of good vision and how research can help improve the lives of thousands of people across Ireland with sight loss.
Visual impairment is a serious global health problem which significantly impacts the personal, social and economic life of the affected individuals and their families.
Drogheda woman Gillian Stafford, who was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 17, said: “World Sight Day gives us the opportunity to speak openly about vision impairment. Many see ‘blindness’ as binary – that is, that you either can see or not. But the reality is that vision impairment is a spectrum, with each person experiencing sight loss uniquely.
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“This 14th October and onwards, we are asking everyone in Ireland to reconsider their perception of ‘sight loss’ and join us in creating an inclusive society that considers the needs of visually impaired people in a meaningful way.”
This year the Tokyo Paralympics were great success for Irish athletes, among them those with sight loss such as Katie-George Dunlevy, Orla Comerford, Jason Smyth, Greta Streimikyte, and Martin Gordon. Their presence at the Games was the crystallisation of years of determination, incremental gain, and overcoming setbacks on their journey to Tokyo.
These athletes achieved great heights on the world stage and raised the bar of what is possible. For many people, living with sight loss experience accomplishments in everyday in tasks that many others take for granted. For some, reading a restaurant menu, riding a bicycle, or walking unaided in a city centre for the first time may prove challenging – but it is often the uncertainty around changes in their sight loss that cause anxiety. Incremental improvements – like an athlete in training – can be achieved through scientific research and developing knowledge.
To mark World Sight Day the public is invited to visit www.fightingblindness.ie for more information on how they can contribute to improving the lives of a large minority of the population.
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