Gillian Stafford was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa aged 17.

An opportunity to refocus on vision as a national priority

On October 14, Fighting Blindness joins vision organisations all around the world to emphasise the need for good vision as part of World Sight Day. Over a quarter of a million people in Ireland are blind or vision impaired. Fighting Blindness, the only Irish charity funding research into treatments for sight loss, aims to create awareness about the importance of good vision and how research can help improve the lives of thousands of people across Ireland with sight loss.

Visual impairment is a serious global health problem which significantly impacts the personal, social and economic life of the affected individuals and their families.

Gillian Stafford was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa aged 17. Commenting on the event, she said, “World Sight Day gives us the opportunity to speak openly about vision impairment. Many see ‘blindness’ as binary – that is, that you either can see or not. But the reality is that vision impairment is a spectrum, with each person experiencing sight loss uniquely. This 14th October and onwards, we are asking everyone in Ireland to reconsider their perception of ‘sight loss’ and join us in creating an inclusive society that considers the needs of visually impaired people in a meaningful way.”

This year the Tokyo Paralympics were great success for Irish athletes, among them those with sight loss such as Katie-George Dunlevy, Orla Comerford, Jason Smyth, Greta Streimikyte, and Martin Gordon. Their presence at the Games was the crystallisation of years of determination, incremental gain, and overcoming setbacks on their journey to Tokyo.

These athletes achieved great heights on the world stage and raised the bar of what is possible. For many people, living with sight loss experience accomplishments in everyday in tasks that many others take for granted. For some, reading a restaurant menu, riding a bicycle, or walking unaided in a city centre for the first time may prove challenging – but it is often the uncertainty around changes in their sight loss that cause anxiety. Incremental improvements – like an athlete in training – can be achieved through scientific research and developing knowledge.

To mark World Sight Day the public is invited to visit for more information on how they can contribute to improving the lives of a large minority of the population.

Kevin Whelan, CEO of Fighting Blindness, added: “This World Sight Day we are championing the over quarter of a million people in Ireland who are vision impaired – many of whom are keenly awaiting scientific progress that may lead to development of treatments to stabilise or improve their vision. Only advances in medical research can provide new opportunities for people with sight loss to see that little bit better.”

Clare Jordan, Roche Products (Ireland) Ltd. said: “We’re proud to support Fighting Blindness in their research efforts. At Roche we are focused on saving people’s eyesight from the leading causes of vision loss through pioneering therapies. We are confident in the power of science and research to solve the problems of sight loss, and so we are delighted to partner with a like-minded charity to improve the lives of tens of thousands of people across Ireland and the world.”