ATLANTA, Sept. 26, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- When Helen Keller stepped onto the stage at the Lions Clubs International conference in Cedar Point, Ohio on June 30, 1925, the now-legendary deaf and blind advocate for the blind, delivered a speech that called upon the attendees to eradicate blindness by becoming "Knights of the Blind" in the crusade against darkness. The Lions Club members she addressed accepted that challenge and focused their efforts to help the blind and visually impaired from that day forward.
By the early 1990s, Lions Clubs International attacked the vision challenge in a big way, creating the SightFirst campaign, organized worldwide and successfully raising $140 million to address vision diseases that are either curable or preventable. Then, following that major achievement, Lions Clubs International launched SightFirst II in 2002 and raised another $200 million with the same objectives. Now, 91 years after Helen Keller's call for a "Knights of the Blind," the focus has shifted to the prevention of blindness while there is still time.
"In the United States, an estimated 625,000 children from the ages of six months to six years old have risk factors for amblyopia or lazy eye," said Dr. Edward Cordes, an optometrist who served as Chairman of the SUNY College Of Optometry College Council. "In addition, there are other kids who don't have those risk factors, but have other vision disorders that need to be corrected early in order to give them a chance of reaching their best potential in their educational environment. It's well known that 80 percent of what a child learns comes through their vision. So if their vision is inhibited, then their education is inhibited."
The challenge for the Lions Clubs and Dr. Cordes, a Lions Club member since 1976 and a former Lions Clubs International Director, is to identify those children with vision disorders among the 12.5 million between the ages of six months and six years old. Fortunately, the introduction of instrument-based vision screening devices over the past decade is helping the Lions Clubs to quickly and accurately identify these children.
In 2013 the World Health Organization established World Sight Day, an annual vision health awareness day held on the second Thursday of October, devoted to focusing global attention on blindness and vision impairment. This year to celebrate World Sight Day, Lions Clubs International board members from countries around the world will gather in Nashville to share their experiences. Dr. Cordes has been invited to attend this meeting and will share his approach to organizing large vision screening campaigns. In addition, Dr. Cordes will lead a hands-on training for international board members, using state-of-the-art vision screening devices at seven schools with pre-school and kindergarten students.
"They will see very quickly how easy these instruments are to operate," said Dr. Cordes, who has been giving speeches to Lions Clubs across the country promoting the use of instrument-based vision screening. "We can go into a school with properly trained Lions Club members and easily screen 40 children in an hour. There is no way you can do that with visual acuity testing, using the eye chart. It just takes too long and is not as accurate."
As Lions Clubs continue to help identify children with vision disorders before it's too late, educating parents about the importance of having their children screened early remains a priority.
"I sincerely believe we are making a difference by giving these kids a good shot at achieving their potential in their youth," said Dr. Cordes. "And because they will have the vision to gain a solid educational foundation, they can go on to become the most productive adults they can be."
About Lions Clubs
Lions Clubs International is the largest service club organization in the world. There are 1.4 million members in more than 46,000 clubs who provide humanitarian service in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the globe. Since 1917, Lions clubs have aided the blind and visually impaired, championed youth initiatives and strengthened communities through hands-on service and humanitarian projects. For more information, visit www.lionsclubs.org
Plusoptix is a global company dedicated to developing and providing the most accurate instrument-based vision screening devices in the world. Plusoptix award-winning vision screening devices have been recognized for outstanding child-friendly product design. Since 2007, the company has served North American customers from its sales and service center in Atlanta, Georgia. More information is available at www.plusoptix.com.
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