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March 21, 2019
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JP O'Hare

(518) 474-1201



State Education Department Announces No-Cost Children’s Eye Exams, Glasses, and Resources

No-cost eye exams and glasses will be provided to students at several New York schools this month through a partnership between the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA), VSP Global, and the New York State Society of Opticians (NYSSO). This is part of an effort to raise awareness about providing accessible vision care and resources to those who are in need, as well as the critical role clear vision plays in children’s physical, cognitive, and social development.

“All public schools provide vision screenings, but a complete eye examination is often necessary to identify more complex vision issues,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “Once our students have access to proper vision care, their learning environment greatly improves. It is so important that we focus on the crucial part a child’s vision plays in his or her ability to truly realize their full potential.”

“Vision problems can hinder students’ ability to learn. Many classroom tasks, such as reading, writing, and using computers can be difficult for students with undiagnosed vision problems,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “All students should have access to quality vision care, and we are so pleased to once again support this effort to bring comprehensive eye exams and glasses to children in these school districts.”

Research shows that one in four school-age children has a vision disorder which impacts his or her ability to learn. To help address this challenge, NYSED is coordinating no-cost eye exams at the schools below where local doctors of optometry, including VSP network doctors, will volunteer their time to provide the eye exams using portable eye exam equipment donated by VSP Global.

Through their Eyes of Hope mobile clinics program, VSP Global will donate prescription eyeglasses to each student who is diagnosed as needing them. Within a few weeks after the eye exam, local ophthalmic dispensers will volunteer their time at the schools to deliver the selected eyeglasses and provide the necessary fittings for the children.

In October 2017, volunteer doctors of optometry conducted 152 comprehensive eye exams, and free eyeglasses were provided to students if prescribed. In addition, VSP Global donated Eyes of Hope gift certificates to assist another 250 students with no-cost eye exams and glasses from a local VSP network doctor’s office.

In October 2018, 179 students received comprehensive eye exams from voluntary doctors of optometry. 135 of the students received free prescription eyeglasses, and VSP Global donated 140 additional Eyes of Hope gift certificates to the schools. A video overview of NYSED’s 2018 School Vision Health Awareness Event is available, featuring the work of NYSED, VSP, and the New York State licensed professionals who volunteered their time for the event.

Free Eye Exams at Five Schools in New York

Free eye exams will be provided to students at the schools below. Parents and guardians who would like a child to participate should contact the school directly.

The clinics will run March 25 and 26 in the Newburgh City School District and March 27-29 in the East Ramapo Central School District. The schedule is as follows:

  • March 25 – Horizon-on-the-Hudson Elementary School, Newburgh City School District, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
  • March 26 – GAMS Tech Elementary School, Newburgh City School District, 8:30 am – 2:45 pm
  • March 27 – Chestnut Ridge Middle School, East Ramapo CSD, 9:00am – 3:30pm
  • March 28 – Kakiat Elementary School, East Ramapo CSD, 8:30am – 2:15pm
  • March 29 – Summit Park Elementary School, East Ramapo CSD, 8:05am – 2:15pm

"We are delighted, once again, to partner with VSP, NYSED and NYSSO to provide comprehensive vision exams to children across New York State,” NYSOA Executive Director Thomas Cote said. “Identifying vision issues in children at an early age is vital to brain development and their ability to learn and retain knowledge. We hope this will engage more parents to initiate annual vision screenings for their children."

"NYSSO is pleased to once again partner with NYSED, VSP Global and NYSOA to help school-aged children see better,” said NYSSO President Dale S. Clemens. “Licensed opticians are trained to fit eyeglasses correctly and ensure the doctor's prescription provides the intended outcome of improved vision. 80% of a child’s learning is through sight. This initiative can make a significant difference in improving the students’ overall learning and development.” 

Additional Resources

Information on school vision health resources is available on the NYSED 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 it 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.

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