The individual with impaired vision requires multi-faceted care which encompasses specialist medical attention, specific support services, special education programmes and family members and friends who are enlightened to their needs. This can be summarized in the diagram below (taken from Macular Degeneration Society, Australia):
At present, Singapore has achieved much in the medical diagnosis and treatment of low vision conditions. These efforts are primarily spear-headed by the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) and the other Ophthalmology Departments of the various hospitals in Singapore. In addition to providing medical treatment, these centres are responsible for the training and continued education of both medical and paramedical eye care professionals. In support of this, the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) has research programmes addressing strategies leading to better treatments and hopefully cure for various diseases that can cause low vision or blindness. National screening programmes are also already in place for early identification of children with myopia, ambylopia, strabismus and other low vision conditions. Additionally, annual free screening for adults have been useful in early detection of eye disease in individuals. The early identification of individuals with vision-threatening disorders, whether young or old, has allowed these individuals to benefit from medical intervention to improve vision or to retard visual deterioration.
Unfortunately, despite medical advances and our best efforts, patients have and will continue to lose vision as a result of late presentation, treatment failure or the incurable nature of some conditions. Patients who lose vision have little to fall back on in terms of support services. This is particularly so for children who are still in or are entering the education system in Singapore. Currently, support services for the visually impaired in Singapore remain fragmented. These include the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped (SAVH), the low vision clinics in the various hospitals in Singapore, specific support groups (eg. Retinitis Pigmentosa support group, Glaucoma support group etc.), Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), the Guide Dog’s Association, the Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA) and informal parent’s support groups. Despite the best of intentions, the combined support provided is inadequate compared to that available in other developed countries. What is still lacking is provision of customized structured programmes for both children with low vision and for older patients who lose variable degrees of vision at various stages of their lives. Although there are overlaps in the needs of these two groups, it is crucial to bear in mind that in children, the programmes must be geared towards both education and rehabilitation whilst those for adults who have already received a full education are designed mainly for rehabilitation.
The proposal is therefore for iC2 PrepHouse to fill this gap and to engage the low vision clinics affiliated to SNEC and other Ophthalmology Departments to ensure a smooth referral process. Whilst the pain of losing one’s vision or seeing a loved one lose vision cannot be fully assuaged, we hope that having a good support system in place will help in many ways to make the journey an easier one. In helping children with low vision stay in mainstream schools and in teaching them coping skills in everyday living, iC2 PrepHouse aims to prepare them for an independent and fulfilling future.