June is Child Vision Awareness Month, and Children’s Aid is dedicated to providing our young people with free access to vision care.
Since 2007, we have partnered with Helen Keller International to provide more than 13,000 students in Children’s Aid schools and programs with free eyeglasses. Launched as a pilot in Washington Heights in 1994, Helen Keller International’s ChildSight program provides free vision screenings, free eye exams, and free prescription eyeglasses to school-aged children.
It costs Helen Keller International just $30 to provide a pair of glasses and an eye exam to each student. Adria Cruz, deputy director for health programs and integration at Children’s Aid, said that eyeglasses can be cost-prohibitive for many families.
“I think sometimes it’s hard for some of us to grasp just how difficult it could be to afford a pair of glasses,” Cruz said. “If a child is having difficulty seeing what is on the whiteboard, they might just tune out.”
According to a 2018 analysis from the Education Week Research Center, more than 29 percent of schoolchildren across the state of New York have not had a vision screening in the past two years – if ever.
Children in families living in poverty are at greater risk of uncorrected vision problems because they struggle to find time, resources, and information to access health care. Vision issues can worsen over time – with serious consequences.
Every year, thousands of screenings took place at Children’s Aid elementary, middle, and high schools. Specialists perform eye exams and students who qualify receive free custom eyeglasses.
“Our partnership with Helen Keller International has allowed us to distribute thousands of eyeglasses to students and remove barriers to academic success,” Cruz said. “Access to healthcare is a struggle for families living in poverty, and these vision screenings make a lifelong impact on the lives of children and youth who may not have had the opportunity to receive quality vision care.”