visiting opticians during the coronavirus pandemic

Visiting your opticians during COVID-19

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Since new government guidelines came into play, most optical practices are now only providing minimal services.

However, those worried about the state of their eyes during this time should know that optical specialists are included in the government’s list of essential workers. This means that they will be available to help if urgently needed.

Ultimately this means that routine checkups are no longer being offered and patients are encouraged not to go to their opticians unless it is essential.

NHS poster on coronavirus for optical practices

Informational poster provided by the NHS for optical practices to use in store [The College of Optometrists]

Three of the four countries in the UK have release their own guidance on what “essential” means, with England (at the time of writing) being the only one yet to release an official statement, although this is expected to change soon. However, other optical bodies have provided their own guidance on how opticians should approach the coronavirus crisis and they include providing spectacles or repairs for key workers, who cannot work without their glasses, and helping with any sudden changes to vision or painful eyes. If there is no clinical need for a patient to attend an optical practice, optical businesses are encouraged to post or deliver spectacles to their patients. If there is a clinical need, then the practice is to use their professional judgement to decide on the best course of action.

Contact lenses, again, can be posted out if the specification is in date. If the specification is not in date then it is up to the professional to judge which has a higher risk, possible COVID-19 spread or dispensing an out of date contact lens specification.

Poster for optical practices during the coronavirus period

Poster for use in optical practices with information on when they are able to help during the coronavirus lockdown. Created by The College of Optometrists [The College of Optometrists]

It is important to note that guidance on this topic can vary depending on whether the practice is based in England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. For the most up to date information, please visit their respective NHS websites.

The General Optical Council also have a page dedicated to updates on the Covid-19 situation and what guidance has been made.


If you have sight loss and are struggling with self-isolation, we created a list of tips that may help you out during this time. OXSIGHT are also operational and our opticians are available to chat if advice is needed. Our number is 01865 580255.

Self-isolation man staring out a window

Self-isolation tips for those with sight loss

With coronavirus making a massive impact on the landscape in the United Kingdom, many people will now find themselves staying at home in self-isolation under lockdown.

The visually impaired community will be no exception and, while there may be numerous guides and advice for how people should handle staying at home, there are a lack of resources specifically for those with sight loss.

So we’ve compiled a list of tips for those with a visual impairment during their self-isolation and lockdown.

1. Self-isolation with family and friends

Social distancing is a buzzword in recent times. But despite this, it is still important to have close ones nearby, whether it be physically or digitally.

Being able to talk and converse is important to not feeling completely isolated and will help with mental health.

Physical closeness can also help with procurement of essential supplies if stock at home runs low.

2. Take advantage of store policies

Many stores and supermarkets have announced policies which allow those who are vulnerable or disabled to have priority during certain times of the day. Take advantage of these slots to ensure that you have everything you need.

Time slots also mean that the number of people around will be reduced and so make it easier to avoid larger crowds.

3. Assistive technologies can help

Assistive technology has made it easier for many people to accomplish tasks that they once struggled with. OXSIGHT smart glasses have helped those with peripheral vision loss to take advantage of their remaining vision and expand their field of view.

There are also apps that connect those with sight loss with others who can then “become their eyes” through the use of a phone camera. Voice activated gadgets are also abundant. Alexa and Siri are just a couple of the artificial intelligences that can be found in devices.

Henshaws have a great online resource for assistive technology and they go in depth on which ones are suited to what purpose and how to find the ones that work best for you.

4. Communities are always around

Self-isolation doesn’t mean that all contact is forbidden. Help is often just a click or phone call away. OXSIGHT’s phone lines remain open and our opticians are available to discuss eyesight concerns. Henshaws have also kept their phone lines open for people to call (0300 222 5555) and they offer more advice on getting the most out of assistive technology whilst being inside.

Many other charities and organisations are also ensuring that they are contactable during this time so that no one is ever truly alone.

Also, there are plenty of communities online which offer an outlet to talk and share experiences. These online gatherings are a great source of comfort and companionship especially during a crisis like this.

5. Stay away from social media

This may seem counterintuitive given tip number 4, but social media is not all good.

There is much fake news and, arguably worse, fear-mongering online. This can be particularly true during global crises. Taking breaks from scrolling can give the mind a bit of rest and a way to isolate yourself from what is happening.

Another reason why it may be a good idea to limit the amount of time spent online is the prevalence of scams. There has been an increase in the number of scams that aim to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. From phishing emails claiming to have a vaccine to online vendors selling counterfeit masks and hand sanitiser, confidence tricksters are exploring all the ways they can to separate people from their money.


NOTE: The UK government have an online form for those who are extremely vulnerable and wish to apply for additional support during this time. You can sign up from this link. 


These are just some of the tips for making the most of your time in self-isolation. If you have any you wish to share, be sure to leave a comment on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


Stay safe and be healthy.

eye care for those with learning disabilities

Guidance on eye care and people with learning disabilities: What you need to know

Recently, GOV.UK updated their guidance on reasonable adjustments for people with a learning disability to include a section on recommendations on their eye care pathway. 

The full document is available to read on, however for those who do not wish to read over 7500 words, we have done the hard work and collated together some of the main takeaways. 

And if even this is too long, there’s a one sentence summary right at the end.

Introduction to eye care for people with learning disabilities

  • “There is a legal obligation for eye care services to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that people with learning disabilities can access services in the same way as other people.”
  • Adults with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to develop serious sight problems and children are 28 times more likely.
  • Not having glasses fitted with the correct prescription is the single biggest cause of avoidable sight loss in the world.
  • The guidance is primarily intended to be of use to family, carers and paid supporters that would help someone they care for to access eye care services. It also aims to help eye care professionals to provide services that are accessible to people with learning disabilities. 
  • They briefly define what “learning disabilities” mean and list example signs that may indicate that someone has a learning disability. 
  • Reasonable adjustments can mean something physical or abstract. For example, installing lifts or providing staff training. Public sector organisations must not be passive in this regard. They must not wait for issues to arise before attempting to tackle them. Measures must be put in place in advance. 
  • The general recommended sight test interval is 2 years for adults and 1 year for children (the document does not specify an age range). 
  • SeeAbility has a national database of optometrists and dispensing opticians and the facilities they have for people with learning disabilities. 
  • Public Health England recommends a full eye examination (as opposed to the normal orthoptic led vision screen) as part of the “school entry health check” for 4-5 year olds with learning disabilities and autism. 

Reasonable Adjustments

  • Those administering eye tests are encouraged to make changes to the tests if the patients are unable to successfully take them. For example: “some people with learning disabilities will not be able to sit near fixed equipment for an examination. Therefore, there is a need for robust portable equipment, including a portable slit lamp and a binocular indirect ophthalmoscope.”
  • Research has shown that health and social care professionals who often work with those with learning disabilities are able to significantly benefit from further awareness training. This not only helps with their interactions with patients, but also encourages them to consider what adjustments need to be made. 
  • A flagging system can be implemented to give staff enough opportunity to provide reasonable adjustments when needed.
  • “Partnerships working between mainstream health services, specialist learning disability teams and family carers or paid supporters of individuals can improve access to healthcare for people with learning disabilities.”
  • It is acknowledged that the price of glasses is a known barrier for those with learning disabilities. Simon Berry, an optometrist for over 20 years and OXSIGHT clinical partner, says: “ I questioned why people were able to have frames for special facial characteristics under the hospital voucher system, but not under GOS (General Ophthalmic Service). This was an obvious inequality that affects people with learning disabilities from conveniently accessing the frames they needed.”

For those of you who skipped to the end, the main takeaway is this, excerpt taken from Article 12.2:

“It is important that the Equality Act is adhered to and that people with learning disabilities are not discriminated against, irrespective of where they are seen.”

central and peripheral vision illustrated with different coloured regions

Central Vision vs Peripheral Vision

Eye sight can be seen (pun very much intended) as being comprised of two main functions: central and peripheral.

Most associate central vision with focusing on particular objects of interest, while peripheral vision is when something to the side attracts attention. Both act as a function of the human retina, which is made up of two types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. Rods are responsible for vision at low light levels, while cones are active at higher light levels.

However, both central and peripheral do much more and provide use that many may not be aware of.


Central Vision

Central vision is probably the one that is more straightforward. Perhaps regarded as the more important of the two, central vision is responsible for most of the active functions that someone uses.

Reading, driving, recognising colours and shapes, and general focus-based detail-oriented sight tasks are fulfilled by the use of central vision.

reading a book with a finger

Central vision allows pinpoint reading

This all comes from the very centre of the retina at the back of the eye, also known as the macular and is where there is a high concentration of cones. If this area is damaged, it can cause vision to become blurry and dull. Eventually it may lead to dark patches appearing.


Peripheral Vision

The general public are often aware of the importance of peripheral vision. It is not something that people actively use, but this doesn’t mean that it is less important than central vision.

Peripheral vision helps to process spatial information received through the eyes and is an important cog in our innate fight or flight response system.

Any activity that involves space (and many ones that don’t) can be improved with better peripheral vision. This is due to spatial information combining with body mechanics to produce correct and precise movements.

For example, if someone is dribbling a football towards a goal, their peripheral vision can inform them of an impending opponent coming from the side. Good peripheral vision gives the player the opportunity to avoid the challenge posed. Bad peripheral vision may leave the player dining on dirt.

man juggling a football on the ground

Which may give you an opportunity to show off your juggling skills

Light sensitivity is also associated with peripheral vision. People will often see better in low light situations with their peripheral vision rather than looking straight with their central vision. This is largely due to the increase in rod density in the periphery which are more sensitive to light.

In addition, peripheral vision plays an important part in scene gist recognition, allowing the individual to access related long-term memory with just a single eye fixation. This then helps to guide the individual in their subsequent actions.

With central vision loss being one of the most common causes of blindness, more and more people are left to rely on actively using their peripheral vision, something that may not be as intuitive. Fortunately, it is possible to train and improve peripheral vision usage to help replace some of the functions that central vision performed.

focusing on the snellen chart with glasses 20/20 vision

What is 20/20 vision?

20/20 vision is normally used to describe perfect sight.

However, this is not entirely accurate.

20/20 vision (or 6/6 if you are in the UK) actually refers to what is seen as “normal visual acuity” at a distance of twenty feet (or six metres). The first number represents what an individual can see clearly at a certain distance. The second number indicates the distance at which normal vision would be able to distinguish.


Essentially, 20/20 vision means that at twenty feet an individual is able to clearly see what someone with normal vision is able to at twenty feet.

Thus, ‘normal’ visual acuity.

This form of measurement comes from Herman Snellen, a Dutch ophthalmologist who developed this system in 1862.

snellen chart

Bog-standard Snellen Chart

After years of research, Snellen determined that 20/20 was the benchmark for standard visual acuity.

The error in believing that this is perfect vision comes from the fact that this form of measurement does not take into account many other factors. Peripheral vision, colour, depth perception, and focusing ability are just some of the other elements of someone’s vision that are omitted.

So, does 20/20 vision mean that you have reached the pinnacle of visual acuity?

Sadly, no.

Someone with 20/10 vision would be able to clearly see something twenty feet away that normally would need a distance of ten feet. While this may seem like a form of “super human vision”, it is not as uncommon as you may think.

This is due to variety of reasons:

  • With technology progressing as it has, the advent of effective eye surgery has been able to improve acuity to above “standard” levels.
  • Believe it or not, brain training has been proven to improve visual acuity.
  • Genetics.
  • The age of the Snellen chart. Having been around for almost 200 years, printing methods for the chart have made a vast leap in terms of clarity which may have led to a greater majority of the population being able to read smaller lines.

For the best visual acuity, there have been reports of aboriginal people with roughly 20/5 vision. For context, this is approximately the visual acuity that eagles have.

While reaching this level may be a pipe dream for many, OXSIGHT glasses have an easy zoom function which can, in theory, give users around 20/7 vision, allowing them to see in a way that surpasses even those with above average visual acuity.

OXSIGHT: Best of 2019

2019 has been an eventful year for OXSIGHT and we would like to thank all of you for your encouragement and words of support. 

This year has been great for us and we could have done any of it without you. 

Here are some of the highlights of OXSIGHT’s 2019. 


  • Brand new look for OXSIGHT

We kicked this year off with a bang by discarding the old, clinical teal and white colour scheme to bring you a silky luxurious black and yellow ensemble. 

Old oxsight to new oxsight logo

Sterile and clinical to sleek and luxurious

This change reflects our mission to not only bring you the best solution for your visual impairment, but also provide service and customer care of the highest standard. We care about every aspect of your interaction with OXSIGHT; from community all the way to clinical. 


  • OXSIGHT officially launches

It’s surprising to think back that earlier this year in February is when OXSIGHT officially launched. It was held at The Taj Hotel, London and we had the honour of having the Blind Poet Dave Steele host the event. 

dave steele at oxsight launch

The Blind Poet has the audience in the palm of his hand

Guest speakers included Prof Xinghuai Sun, a leading clinician and world authority on Ophthalmology & Vision Science, Prof Monica Chaudhary, a renowned low vision expert in India, leading UK technology journalist Rob Waugh, and OXSIGHT user and Ambassador David Quigley.

panel at oxsight launch

From left to right: Valerie Riffaud Cangelosi, Head of New Market Development – EMEA at Epson; Prof Monica Chaudhry, Director of the School of Health Sciences at Ansal University; David Quigley, OXSIGHT Ambassador; Prof Xinghuai Sun, Chairman of Ophthalmology and Vision Science at Fudan University in China; Rob Waugh, science and technology journalist.


  • Shaun runs for sight

In 2019, OXSIGHT’s Shaun took on the unenviable challenge of running 20 marathons before the end of 2020. He took on all comers, from local events to national races.

The highlight of the year for Shaun was undoubtedly his run in the London Marathon in which he not only finished (which is a feat in itself), but also smashed his personal best by over 20 minutes. 

shaun and his london marathon medal

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

With still half his runs to go, we wish Shaun all the luck in the world for the rest and hopes he continues to improve on his times. 

Break a leg, Shaun!

shaun celebrates

Cue Rocky theme tune


  • OXSIGHT China and India goes live

This year was the year that OXSIGHT truly went global. 

Although we already had users from outside the United Kingdom previously, 2019 saw the official launch of OXSIGHT in both China and India, allowing us to drastically increase the number of people in the visually impaired community we are able to reach. 

first oxsight user in china

First OXSIGHT user in China

This marked an important step in the development of both the company and the community in our mission to help as many visually impaired people as possible


  • OXSIGHT glasses awarded RNIB Tried and Tested certification

It’s no secret that there are other companies that make smart glasses for the visually impaired. But what makes OXSIGHT stand out is the recognition and support that we have gotten from the community. 

In particular, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) put our glasses through rigorous testing and as a result, we were awarded with their unique RNIB Tried and Tested certification. 

Not only are we the first wearable technology to be awarded this prestigious accolade, but it indicates that our glasses have been tested both against RNIB’s internal guidelines and by blind and partially sighted people to ensure it is usable and accessible.

danielle at rnib

Danielle is just one of many successful demos OXSIGHT held at the RNIB

It demonstrates OXSIGHT’s commitment to inclusivity and lets customers know the product satisfies RNIB’s inclusive design guidelines, including visual, tactile, and audio aspects of the user interface.

It is a tremendous honour and one of the highlights of our year. 


  • Night at the theatre for the visually impaired

To raise awareness for accessible entertainment and in conjunction with World Sight Day 2019, OXSIGHT teamed up with Manchester Opera House and Henshaws to give ten registered blind individuals the chance to experience the musical “& Juliet” before its West End debut. 

oxsight users at the theatre

The blind are taking over the theatre

The lucky individuals were given the opportunity to watch the entire show with the help of OXSIGHT glasses and then taken backstage to meet the cast and experience a touch tour. 

theatre touch tour

Backstage at “& Juliet”


  • New glasses for central vision loss coming soon

OXSIGHT currently have 2 products on the market: the Prism and Crystal. These are great for those with peripheral vision loss, but less effective for those who lack central vision.

Because we simply cannot bear the thought that there are parts of the blind community that we can’t potentially help, our tech team have been hard at work creating a solution for those with central vision loss. 

Progress has been excellent and we have already begun user testing with the final product being available early 2020.

1 year, 3 products, countless helped. The future is sight.


  • The growing OXSIGHT community

2019 has seen OXSIGHT take a huge step in terms of overall growth. Our glasses are used on 4 different continents, our users number in the hundreds, and we are now able to provide our services to over a third of the world’s population. 

Our community has grown immensely and this is all down to you and all the support you have given. 

So in the spirit of the holidays, OXSIGHT would like to thank you and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

merry christmas gif

Bring on 2020!

christmas elves

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Christmas is around the corner and for many it is a time of great celebration with family and friends.

However, this festive season also brings inconveniences that may be detrimental to the enjoyment of those with a visual impairment.

Here are some things that the blind may need to be wary of during the holidays.



Let’s be honest, it would be a miracle if we were to witness a white Christmas.

But on the off-chance that this happens, the snow also brings with it an overlooked visual issue – glare.

snow glare

“It burns. It burns!”

Firstly, snow is (mostly) white. When a sheet of white covers an area during a sunny day, it can reflect sunlight directly into the eyes of those nearby.

While people with normal vision may experience mild discomfort, the visually impaired may find this experience significantly more painful. Furthermore, because snow can reflect more than 80 percent of ultraviolet rays that fall on it, the eyes are more at risk of being sunburnt.

Who said that sunglasses are only for summer?


Christmas Lights

On the topic of light, Christmas lights can also cause nuisance to the blind.

Christmas light show

Also true for people without sight loss.

Bright, flashing lights can often be jarring to those with sight loss or light sensitivity.

Occasionally the orientation of the sense can bring on bouts of nausea and seizures.

Molly Watt, an advocate for the visually impaired, has a video in which she talks about how Christmas lights have negatively affected her enjoyment of Christmas.


House Hazards

Routine can be a powerful tools. It can help with self-improvement and  efficiency, as well as aid the blind in navigation around the house.

But with Christmas, comes an assortment of accessories.

Trees need to be erected and adorned with ornaments. Decorations are strategically placed around the house to maximise interior aesthetics. Presents are shoved under the tree and stockings are irreparably nailed to the wall.

These elements provide the house with a sense of festive joy, but can act as additional obstacles blind people need to traverse through as they go about their day.

An errant bauble on the floor can mean that someone is spending Christmas in the emergency room.

christmas house decorations

“Who would put a small tree next to the main tree?”


Christmas Dinner

It’s Christmas Day. Presents have been unwrapped. Family has gathered. Drinks have been free-flowing.

And now it’s time for dinner.

On the table is a myriad of vibrant colours. The turkey is nice and golden. The cranberry sauce sparkles bright red. The fresh green of brussel sprouts provide the perfect contrast to the earthy brown of roast potatoes and pigs in cosy blankets. To top it all off, there is a boat filled to the brim with a sea of gravy to glaze the meal with.

christmas dinner

Am I drooling?

Most people would be able to partake in such as visual feast before the actual meal begins.

This may not be the case for those with sight problems. Instead they have to make do with an aromatic banquet which, admittedly, is just as good if not better.


Social Awkwardness

This holiday period is a time when close family and friends get together to celebrate, socialise, and exchange gifts.

Unfortunately for some, this also means that random relatives or strangers may suddenly appear which can lead to awkward social moments.

family and friends at christmas

“Who’s touching me?”

Those unused to interacting with the visually impaired may find themselves not knowing how to act or saying the wrong thing, which can create awkwardness.

It is commonly believed that the remedy for this sort of situation is the oral ingestion of adult beverages. However, while this can produce short term benefits, long term detriment is just as possible.



Holidays often brings with it a multitude of festive public events. While they are objectively fun, they are also often packed full of other human bodies.

Thick crowds are not conducive to easy white cane or guide dog usage, due to the lack of space and the potential of bumping into others. Debris on the floor can also make cane use much harder with the increase of unseen obstacles.

Christmas crowds

Challenge accepted.

In addition, those who utilise audio to facilitate orientation and navigation may also suffer due to the increase in unwanted sound.

These aspects can result in disorientation and stress for the visually impaired.

What do you find that you struggle with during the Christmas holiday period?

Gift Ideas for the Visually Impaired

The holiday season is upon us and there are only 19 days till you’re officially allowed to frantically unwrap all the goodies under the tree.

Upon discovering what this special occasion has given you, some will react with cries of joy while others may lower their faces with signs of anguish.

To avoid spreading disappointment in the festive season of giving, here is OXSIGHT’s list of best gifts for the visually impaired.


OXSIGHT glasses

oxsight users at afternoon tea

OXSIGHT PrismTM and CrystalTM are specially designed smart glasses for the visually impaired. With intuitive technology, users have reported being able to see their whole family at gatherings as well as be able to finally appreciate that gorgeous roast turkey at the centre of the table.

OXSIGHT glasses enable users to maintain eye contact with their loved ones with its clear design and avoid eye contact with no-so-loved ones with its attachable shade.

They also come with a variety of accessories allowing the users to customise them to fit their needs.

Also… the launch of a new product in 2020 will bring more Christmas cheer to those with central vision loss.

Pro tip: change modes to highlight objects of interest.

Perfect for: You?


Stand by Me RP by Dave Steele

The Blind Poet Dave Steele shares his life with retinitis pigmentosa through the medium of written poetry. Steele tackles issues connected to family, social life, perception from others, and tribulations that he has had to overcome.

The best part?

There are 3 books in the series, so this gift will work for both new and returning readers.

Pro tip: read your favourites aloud to turn your party into a sob fest.

Perfect for: literary buffs, the newly diagnosed, the alienated


Watches for the Blind

As a whole, the process of telling the time is almost entirely a visually based task. While it is possible to access services that provide a speaking clock, they are often impractical for general purpose use when speed and efficiency are required.

Watches designed for those with sight loss have come a long way and help improve the ease with which users can tell the time.

There are 2 main types of these watches.

Talking watches are exactly that. They look like regular watches but at the touch of a button, a voice will sound which announces the current time for the user.

Tactile watches, on the other hand, utilise the user’s sense of touch to convey the time. The simple ones look like regular watches, but have have tactile dots which indicate the hours and hands that are touchable. More complex watches use other methods. Eone Bradley watches have 2 ball bearings that move according to the hands of a clock, while the Dot Watch is a smartwatch and displays time (and other info) in braille.

The main downside to these types of watches is their size. Most will be noticeably thicker than regular watches and some may have a larger case diameter.

Pro tip: coordinate with your attire to be cat-walk ready.

Perfect for: techies, the tardy, the fashion-conscious


Board Games

Nothing brings the family closer together than a board game session.

Those with sight loss may find it hard to join in with some tabletop classics, but fortunately, accessible versions have been made to make family and friends fun inclusive to all.

Most of these games have had braille added to them, while others now have tactile markers to help players differentiate pieces.

Pro tip: better to have cheaters on your team than not.

Perfect for: those with friends and/or family, kids, the competitive



Search “phones for the visually impaired” and you will be bombarded with a plethora of options claiming to make phone operation easier for those with sight loss. And while these options are great, not everyone is happy to trade in style, function, and inclusiveness for improved accessibility.

This is especially the case when modern smartphones do a great job at providing options for those with disabilities.

Perhaps the leader in this field is Apple’s iPhone.

Their Voiceover function can read text and image descriptions, Dark Mode will increase contrast, Magnifier will enlarge anything on screen, and these are just some of the features available for use.

Pro tip: “Hey Siri, call me Thanos from now on.”

Perfect for: all ages, Internet addicts, fans of Steve Jobs


Audiobook Subscription

man listening to audiobook on street

Book reading has undergone an evolution in recent years. No longer are bibliophiles limited to simply using their eyes to digest written language. They can now experience books in an auditory capacity.

Audiobooks exist mostly in digital form, so simply gifting one to friends or family may be regarded as miserly. Luckily, there are plenty of subscription options on offer.

The only drawback is that subscriptions mean that you will be financially on the hook for a certain amount of time.

Pro tip: obtain login details from the recipient to take advantage of the subscription yourself.

Perfect for: pseudo-intellectuals, book club patrons, lazy students



surgeon with green bay packers hat

Treatment for someone with a visual impairment is a more situational gift. Not every condition has a corresponding cure.

Fortunately, medical science is progressing at a rapid pace so, even if there isn’t one now, there may be one in the future.

Laser eye surgery may help those with long- or short-sightedness. Patients can also sign up to take part in the latest clinical trials involving the use of gene therapy or stem cells. While these trials may be quite experimental and have no guarantee of success, they also offer the opportunity to be at the forefront of modern medicine and contribute to the eventual production of a cure.

Pro tip: expectation management is a must.

Perfect for: the impatient, gamblers, “I know a guy”

Blind individuals experience new musical “& Juliet” with OXSIGHT glasses

Manchester, 9th September, 2019 — Registered blind individuals were given the opportunity to experience the new musical “& Juliet” in Manchester wearing new smart glasses that allowed them to see the entire performance.

Participants with ‘tunnel vision’ also known as ‘peripheral vision loss’ entered a competition to experience the show using new smart glasses technology which allowed them to see the entire musical “& Juliet” before its West End debut. In addition, a further 10 registered blind winners were given an exclusive touch tour which allowed them to feel the props, costumes and meet the cast – followed by the Opera house’s fantastic audio description accessibility option. 

Enjoying a behind the scenes experience on the touch tour

Enjoying a behind the scenes experience on the touch tour

Kevin Crompton, 48 from Manchester who has lost 95% of his vision and describes his remaining sight as “looking through pin hole”, commented on the performance “It was very emotional putting the glasses on for the first time in the theatre, usually I wouldn’t be able to see the stage, but I was able to follow the entire story and see the full stage and all of the characters. Sight loss doesn’t mean having to give up on life, it means doing life differently – this is exactly what OXSIGHT are doing for people”.   

OXSIGHT teamed up with Opera House Manchester and Henshaw’s to make theatre experiences more accessible for those living with a visual impairment and as part of the World Sight Day 2019 campaign, giving free tickets to new musical.

When we were asked to be involved our answer was a fervent yes. This is an opportunity where we can support developments in accessibility and change how people can experience live entertainment. Working with OXSIGHT means there’s a chance of breaking down barriers and we are committed to making theatre to be accessible to everyone”, said Manchester Opera House Director, Sheena Wrigley.

Winners settling in for a night at the theatre wearing OXSIGHT glasses

Winners settling in for a night at the theatre wearing OXSIGHT glasses

OXSIGHT users have experienced an increased field of view of up to 68 degrees. Many utilise the different modes on offer to enhance their remaining vision and experience sights they thought they had lost forever.

Kirsty Hill from Shrewsbury lost her peripheral vision following a stroke three years ago commented on her experience, “I can’t tell you how much the glasses mean to me, I never thought I would be able to enjoy anything like this properly again. The planning and care that went into looking after all of us and our dogs was so appreciated. The show was an opposite of sensory deprivation, still feel like my hair is standing on end!”  

There are more than two million people in the UK living with sight loss that noticeably affects their quality of life. In addition, it is estimated that 250 people start to lose their vision every day. 

Hayley Allen, OXSIGHT Customer Care Manager, said: “It’s great to be able to collaborate with Henshaw’s, who do such amazing and important work in supporting the visually impaired. And Opera House Manchester have been brilliant. They’re always working hard to ensure that the visually impaired community feel as welcome as possible.”

Guide dogs and their water bowls at Manchester Opera House

Guide dogs and their water bowls at Manchester Opera House

This theatre event marks the first of many partnerships that OXSIGHT and Henshaw’s will be seeking out in order to increase accessibility at cultural venues for the visually impaired community.

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Luxturna gene therapy for sight loss on the NHS

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This week, the BBC reported that gene therapy may become available on the NHS for those with visual impairments. With a commercial price of £613,410 per person, the NHS have managed to come to an agreement with global drug company Novartis over treatment with voretigene neparvovec (commercially known as Luxturna) and it is expected that treatment will be available from January 2020.

Let’s go through the main points:

  • Eligibility for the treatment is very specific – Voretigene neparvovec is targeted at those with inherited retinal dystrophies due to a mutation in the RPE65 gene, which aids the production of proteins vital to normal vision. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimate that approximately 86 people in England will be eligible.
  • Voretigene neparvovec aims to stabilise vision and prevent further sight loss – Unfortunately the treatment does not aim to restore vision that has already been lost.
  • Location may be important – NICE lists NHS England as the only NHS consultee for the proposed treatment. Furthermore, in reports, quotes from the NHS have come from Simon Stevens, the CEO of NHS England. This could suggest that the treatment will only be available to those living in England and Wales (who are legally obliged to fund NICE guidance). Those with the condition in Scotland and Northern Ireland will have to wait on separate decisions to be made. Additionally, according to a statement by NHS England, the treatment will initially be rolled out in three national specialist centres across the UK. Making it available to other hospitals later is an option and not mandatory.
  • Injections in the eye – The treatment is administered by a one-time injection under the retina of each eye. Normally, one eye will be treated first, with the other treated after at least 6 days. The injections aim to introduce a healthy version of the RPE65 gene which can then help production of the protein needed for normal vision.
  • Long-term effects are unclear – Studies have shown shorter term benefits (3 to 4 years) but longer term effects are uncertain. However, clinical experts feel that there is a “biological rationale” for the effects of the treatment to remain.
  • There are side effects – As with most treatments, there are potential side effects and these can be found on Luxturna’s website. Some of the more serious ones include eye infections, permanent decline in visual acuity or sharpness of central vision, as well as further sight loss due to various potential changes to the eye.
  • Not set in stone – This treatment is still currently in progress with final evaluation determination expected to conclude by 20th September 2019. It is still a possibility (admittedly a minute one) that the availability of Luxturna could be delayed. However, the NICE guidance is expected to be published on the 9th October 2019, which then gives NHS England three months to make it available “as an option”.

Please see the NICE website for full details and status of the treatment.