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A world that sees: A gaze into virtual impairment

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Every year, the second Thursday of October is regarded as world eye care day. People around the world are encouraged to make efforts to learn and know about eye care and health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “80% of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured”. That is why they have adopted a VISION 2020 Global Initiative whose aim is to eliminate main causes of all preventable and treatable blindness by the year 2020.

According to them, the people at risk are people who are 50 years of age and/or above and children below the age of 15. What is the cause of this vulnerability? One could ask. For the elderly, it is chronic eye diseases and the ageing processes. The importance of this day is to raise awareness about impairment diseases because some of us only get concerned when it’s too late whereas if we had known in earlier stages, we could have prevented or cured the damage. The International Classification of Diseases describes four (4) different levels of visual function – Normal vision, moderate visual impairment, severe visual impairment and blindness/ Moderate visual impairment together with severe visual impairment are termed “low vision”. Low vision and blindness constitute all visual impairments.

“Many of us strain our eyes even further because we are afraid of being seen with eye care glasses. I started noticing that I have eye problems when I was in grade 8. I would struggle to see what was written on the board but never made an effort to move because I did not want to sit in the front row seats of the class. Instead, I would ask my friends what was written on the board. As a result, my academic performance was not on par because I would always run out of time. My class teacher is the one who talked me into getting my eyes checked and telling my parents about my eye problems and that’s when I got help in the form of eye care glasses for near sightedness. Near sightedness is a condition where you struggle to see things that are more than 8 metres away”, so says Malesela Maponya.

These impairments are caused by daily life experiences such as too much exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, smoking (make a person vulnerable to optic nerve damage and cataracts development) and too much exposure from electrical devices such as cell phones, televisions and computers. To keep our eyes healthy, we can eat food that is good for vision (leafy vegetables such as spinach, fish, eggs, nuts and beans), quit smoking, minimise the times we spend in front of screens and visit doctors and hospitals to get our eyes checked.