Vision Impairment Register an Australian first

14/09/11
Child using braille machineThe Vision Impairment Register is an Australian first

Australia’s major providers of services for children who are blind or vision impaired have joined together to provide a register to capture the needs of Australian children.

An initiative of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC), the Childhood Vision Impairment Register aims, for the first time, to identify the total number of children living with significant vision impairment in Australia.

This major Australian first, seeks to greatly improve the life outcomes of children living with impaired vision by giving service providers the information they need to plan for future service delivery.

Developed by RIDBC in partnership with families, teachers, health professionals and low-vision service providers across the country, there are already more than 450 children registered. But there’s still a long way to go.

While there are no reliable figures available in Australia on the prevalence of vision impairment in children, statistics from other developed countries suggest that there could be as many 5000 children.

“Australia is really lagging behind the rest of the developed world in capturing the incidence of vision impairment and given the size of this country it should be a priority. It is disappointing that in 2011 we do not know how many children in Australia are living with vision impairment,” said Sue Silveira, Senior Research Fellow at RIDBC Renwick Centre and Project Manager for the Register.

A clearer image of the effect vision impairment on Australia’s children gives us a much better way to predict their service requirements.”

The Register seeks to determine the most common conditions that cause vision impairment and also to establish an information network for parents. A website and forum have been set up to allow parents to find information and to contact other parents who have similar experiences and information needs.

“No-one knows what it’s like to raise a child with vision impairment except parents of a child with vision impairment. Those parents need to have the opportunity to talk to each other and support each other,” Ms Silveira said.

“We hope to help parents to understand their child’s diagnosis as well as providing data to the agencies that will plan future service delivery for their children.”

The Register has the approval of the Hunter New England Human Research and Ethics Committee.

Those seeking to register their child can do so via www.vifamilynetwork.org.au

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children provides assistance to over 1000 children with significant hearing and/or vision impairment and their families across Australia. RIDBC also provides vision and hearing screening to a further 2000 babies and children each year.