A $2 million mobile eye service for Auckland schools has hit the road in a bid to give kids an equal chance in the classroom.
If you ask Glen Taylor School deputy principal Johanna Wrack she’ll tell you even a small loss of sight can have a huge impact in the classroom.
“They squint quite a bit, sometimes they have watery eyes and quite often you can see the frustration in their eyes too.”
Auckland University Optometrist, Veeran Morar, says their research has found that nationwide, one in ten children needs glasses, and for some schools, the true figure is double that.
“There's two big needs out there, there's myopia which is short-sightedness from constant screen work and we're seeing a lot of that more recently with the introduction of devices throughout society more and more use.
“The opposite to that is longsightedness so that's when the long sight is OK but the short sight becomes a problem, particularly for children and that's where the reading becomes difficult for both long and short-sightedness.”
However, while New Zealand optometrists provide free screening to children, transport can be a barrier for some whānau, and even once sight issues are discovered, Morar says, some parents simply can’t afford the prescription glasses.
Auckland University’s solution is the Vision Bus, Aotearoa’s first mobile optometry clinic, providing school screenings, and free glasses.
Morar is both the clinic’s driver and full-time optometrist, so far visiting 20 Auckland schools this year.
“We're not reaching everyone in our services of optometry so one of the big things the bus is trying to do is give equity to everyone in society so whether you're from a low socio-economic group or medium to high we want to make sure everyone is accessing optometry.
“This bus can go anywhere there's a road so we want to go into remote places in New Zealand that's something we're looking forward to.”