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October 2, 2017
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Announces No-Cost Children's Eye Exams, Glasses And Resources As Part Of First-Ever School Vision Health Month

Given the critical role clear vision plays in children’s physical, cognitive and social development, the New York State Education Department worked in partnership with the New York State Optometric Association, VSP Global and the New York State Society of Opticians to provide access at no cost to exams and glasses to students at seven schools across New York as part of School Vision Health Month.

Research shows that one in four school-age children has a vision disorder, which impacts his or her ability to properly learn. In June 2017, the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate passed resolutions proclaiming October 2017 as School Vision Health Month to raise awareness about providing accessible visual care and resources to those who are in need.

“In recognition of School Vision Health Month, we are so pleased to partner with licensed optometrists, ophthalmologists, opticians and VSP to bring comprehensive eye exams and glasses to children in these school districts,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “Once our students have access to proper vision care, their learning environment is greatly improved and they can truly realize their full potential. I want to thank Regent James E. Cottrell and Dr. Pamela F. Gallin for starting the conversation that brought about School Vision Health Month.”

“Not being able to see the letters on a page can hinder students’ ability to learn,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “For some families in New York, eye exams and corrective eyewear is simply unaffordable. That is why we worked with the State Assembly and Senate to highlight this critical issue. We thank VSP and the licensed eye care professionals who donated resources and time to make these free exams possible.”

NYSED coordinated the no-cost eye exams at the schools below where local optometrists, including VSP network doctors, will volunteer their time to provide the eye exams using portable eye exam equipment donated by VSP Vision Care. VSP will donate eye glasses to each student who is diagnosed as needing glasses. Approximately, two weeks after the eye exam, local ophthalmic dispensers will volunteer their time at the schools delivering the selected frames and providing the necessary fittings for the children.

Free Eye Exams at Seven Schools Across New York

Free eye exams will be provided to students at the schools below. Parents that would like their child to participate should contact the school directly. 

  • Oct. 4: Wales Primary School, East Aurora, NY
  • Oct. 5: Prospect Elementary School, Salamanca, NY
  • Oct. 6: Seneca Intermediate School, Salamanca, NY
  • Oct. 10: Minoa Elementary School, Minoa, NY
  • Oct. 11: Waverly Central School District, Waverly, NY
  • Oct. 13: Northern Adirondack Central School District, Ellenburg, NY
  • Oct. 16: Fort Edward Union Free School District, Fort Edward, NY

While all public schools provide vision screenings and referrals to eye care specialists as needed, it is difficult to obtain the necessary comprehensive eye examinations for some students.

“The New York State Optometric Association is excited to be involved in this inaugural program, and we commend the Legislature for recognizing that to do their best in school, every child needs a quality, comprehensive eye exam from an eye care professional,” said Dr. Kenneth H. Sorkin, President. “Our members will be volunteering their time and expertise to provide eye exams, free of charge, to students across the state, many of whom would not otherwise have access to comprehensive eye care. We appreciate this opportunity to highlight the critical role that vision plays in a child’s ability to learn and develop in an academic setting, and we look forward to expanding this initiative in the years to come. We also would like to thank the Board of Regents, NYS Department of Education, and VSP Global for their generous support and partnership.”

“Having the ability to work with these schools directly shines a light on the importance of eye health for children,” said Kate Renwick-Espinosa, President of VSP Vision Care. “We’re honored to be able to expand access to comprehensive eye exams and glasses to communities in need and help foster that focus.” 

“The New York State Society of Opticians fully supports the New York State Education Department’s Children’s Vision Health Month,” Society President George Hsu said. “Vision is one of our most precious senses, and NYSSO’s leaders and members will be volunteering their time and expertise in fitting eyeglasses to children in need and carrying on our proud tradition of giving back to our communities.”     

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, said,

“I would like to congratulate Chancellor Rosa, the Board of Regents, Commissioner Elia and the State Education Department for this outstanding and important program.  This innovative and comprehensive statewide outreach will be invaluable for so many families and children.  I thank SUNY College of Optometry for providing screenings in New York City and urge families to find the other locations statewide and use this wonderful step forward, led by our great NYS Commissioner and Regents.”

Senator Carl L. Marcellino, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said, “School Vision Health Month draws valuable attention to the fact that it is difficult for a student to succeed in the classroom if they struggle to see.  A child’s overall educational performance depends on proper vision.  Every student deserves access to quality vision care and these free exams and glasses will allow children in need to remove an unnecessary obstacle to success in the classroom.”

Additional Resources

Additional information regarding vision resources can be found on the New York State Center for School Health website and from the Children’s Vision Coalition (, an Albany-based nonprofit organization supported by the New York State Optometric Association. In addition, the following organizations offer pediatric ophthalmology clinics that provide complete eye examinations upon referral. Volunteer ophthalmologists from the New York State Ophthalmological Society make these clinics possible. Please call each organization for more information.

  • Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY 518-262-4353
  • Children’s Medical Eye Consultants, Slingerlands, NY 518-533-6502
  • Oshei Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Outpatient Ophthalmology Center, Buffalo, NY 716-859-5437
  • Western NY Ophthalmology Group, Amherst, NY 716-204-4516
  • Columbia Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, New York, NY 212-305-9535
  • New York-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital, New York, NY 646-962-2020

For referrals to optometrists in your community who specialize in pediatric eye care, please contact the New York State Optometric Association at (800) 342-9836 or visit them online at

Further, the New York City Department of Education’s Office of School Health has vision programs to ensure that all children are screened, and that children with serious vision problems receive the evaluation and treatment they need. More information on NYDOE’s program can be found on its website.

NYSED licenses all vision professionals, including physicians, optometrists and ophthalmic dispensers, assuring that New Yorkers receive competent and professional eye care. This initiative will provide the necessary awareness to encourage parents to bring their children to an eye care professional. School vision screenings are not diagnostic, and a complete eye examination is fundamental for a child with vision difficulties to succeed in school. There are also certain warning signs parents can look out for such as: avoiding or not liking reading; short attention span; difficulty copying from a chalkboard; pulling a book in close to their face; lots of blinking or eye rubbing; guiding their eyes with a finger or pencil while reading; and falling performance in school.

The New York State Optometric Association, founded in 1895, is dedicated to enhancing the vision care and health of the public and promoting the art and science of optometry. New York State Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a leading role in a patient’s overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. A non-profit individual membership organization, NYSOA works with local affiliated optometric associations throughout New York State, and is affiliated with the American Optometric Association (AOA). Members practice in a variety of settings including private offices, in association with other optometric professionals, and in hospital clinics and health maintenance organizations.

The New York State Society of Opticians (NYSSO), representing over 4,000 Licensed Ophthalmic Dispensers, plays an important role in protecting the public’s vision and promoting healthy eye care across the Empire State. NYSSO is especially vigilant when it comes to children’s eye care. Every year the Society issues warnings to parents, children and schools about the dangers of cosmetic and costume contact lenses and the threat such unregulated items can pose to the public health. 

The American Optometric Association recommends that children see an eye care professional at six months, three years and around five years old. After that, an eye exam should be scheduled at least once a year.