For low vision specialists and those who consult them
From the front line: Low vision care in rural Romania
February 9, 2010Posted by on
For the past six years I have been involved with a small charity called Iasis, which amongst other things provides low vision care in a School for the Blind in a remote part of Romania.
It has been fascinating to see the changes in this part of Eastern Europe since 2004: since then Romania has joined the European Union, there is mobile phone coverage in the remote area where the school is, there are Best Western and Ramada hotels in Iasi (the nearest big town), and there are far fewer horses and carts on the roads. My friend and former colleague Marek Karas has been coming here since shortly after the fall of Communism and the changes he has seen in the last 15 years are even more marked.
From a low vision perspective, three optometrists (myself, Marek, and Liz Gould) see about 100 children for a low vision assessment each year. The school has some computers and donated electronic CCTV magnifiers, so our role is in refraction and providing optical magnifiers. Due to previous difficulties with the supply of batteries we generally use very ‘low tech’ devices: non illuminated hand and stand magnifiers, hyperoculars, and spectacles.
What is remarkable – and humbling – is how effective very simple magnifiers are and how well they are used. It is not uncommon for us to ask children what magnifiers they use and to be presented with a chipped, scratched lens which has fallen out of a hand magnifier months earlier – but which is clearly well loved and which is used dozens of times a day. As some of these devices cost only about £5/€5/$8 it is staggering what value for money they provide.
Without wanting to sound sentimental, it also reminds me why I love working in the field of low vision rehabilitation: the smile on the face of a child when you show them that with a spectacle correction they can see their friends’ faces across a room is about as life-affirming as you can get.