Monday, November 29, 2021

Ten years of eye care for underprivileged in India

As India Vision Institute, the NGO working to provide the underprivileged access to vision screening and a pair of free glasses for those in need, marks its tenth anniversary, it has launched two landmark programs in Chennai.

Keeping its focus on transgender inclusion and gender equality, India Vision Institute is screening some 1,500 individuals from the transgender community and 10,000 underprivileged women in communities across Chennai. 

For the NGO, known across India and the world by its acronym IVI, the announcements of these programs in October came along with its celebration of the tenth anniversary.IVI was established in 2011, the year it was registered as a non-profit trust.

Primary eye care services

With the vision to ‘Augment the Primary Eye Care Capacity of India’, IVI works to deliver primary eye care services, including free pairs of corrective glasses, to the underprivileged in 22 states of India. 

The NGO has set its sights high. CEO and Managing Trustee Vinod Daniel said, “On our tenth anniversary, it is our endeavour to aim for a million screenings in the next year or so.”

“IVI’s efforts so far have touched over 403,300 lives, including some 284,000 children. Our nearly 1,400 vision screening programs across India have resulted in distributing 81,000 free corrective glasses to people with uncorrected refractive errors,” he said. “In Education, IVI works to upgrade optometrists’ skills and building capacity and equip them to cope with challenges in their careers. We organise advocacy, talks, education, skill enhancement, and leadership development programs.”

Two flagship programs that help deliver IVI’sservices are Eye See and I Learn and Eye See and I Work. Vision correction and glasses help school children do well in studies, helping them to aspire for a better future. Similarly, better sight in adults assists them in being more productive and ensure that their livelihood is safe and secure.

A pair of spectacles can help drivers

In a country with a high incidence of road accidents and fatalities, a pair of spectacles can help drivers see better and avoid mishaps. Here too IVI has focused on vision and road safety as an area of high priority, and a taskforce comprising industry and experts is looking into the issue closely. Screenings of commercial drivers and truckers in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are ongoing and in full swing.

IVI is also working to strengthen research capacity in Optometry. A Vision Science Taskforce is making efforts to expand research capability in Optometry in India. Other programs are helping weavers and artisans, fishermen, stone sculptors get protective eyewear and sunglasses against harmful UV rays.

“We organise awareness campaigns such as ‘Walk in the Dark’ in Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Aizawl. These activities, which make citizens aware of the problem and what can be done to address the problem of avoidable blindness, has evoked a good response from citizens from all walks of life,” said Mr Daniel.

Online activities during pandemi

The pandemic has seen some IVI activities move online, especially in Education. Optometry schools, students and the academic community have over the past months thronged to listen to interlocutors, experts and speakers from across the world. IVI’s workshops, talks and discussion sessions on a range of issues of concern to primary eye care have been a big draw.

IVI’s International Optometry Conferences, the second edition of which was held 9-11 September this year, have become a major annual event in the world’s eye health calendar. With keynote talks and panel discussions, the conference draws the world’s top experts, researchers and scientists in the field in addition to evoking the interest and attention from students, academics and industry.

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