Visual impairment screening

Our Information Technology students have been developing a tool to help therapists screen clients for visual impairment.

There is currently no low vision service funded in New Zealand and a consequent risk that visual impairment goes under-diagnosed. For example visual impairment may be one of the consequences of a stroke, or may be a factor contributing to someone having suffered a fall. Mary Butler, a Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, identified the need for a tool that therapists can use to screen for visual impairment. The tool needed to be self-explanatory and easy for therapists to use. Ideally it would screen for five different types of visual impairment and suggest possible first response interventions that would help clients to improve their functioning. An example of such an intervention could be a review of lighting in their home and advice about improving that.

A group of our Bachelor of Information Technology students accepted the challenge to develop an Android app for this purpose.  In the first year they produced three prototypes which Mary could test with people with low vision and with therapists. The feedback which was received informed further development, and the result is a new and innovative Eyes Right Toolkit.

The Eyes Right Toolkit has been piloted by Occupational Therapy students Aleisha McMurray and Tahlia Hapuku with Year 9 and 10 Kaikorai Valley College students, in collaboration with Retina NZ and the Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa (VICTA). Read the Otago Daily Times article here. 122 secondary students were screened, with 21 of them referred to an optometrist. Our students also gave a presentation about common eye problems youth are facing today such as computer vision syndrome, myopia related to screen time, and UV damage. One of the secondary students reported:

“It let me know I could see well, and all about the harmful stuff that can happen to my eyes and how I can protect them.” 

Occupational Therapy student Helen Knight has also taught 300 nurses in Fiji how to use the Eyes Right Toolkit to screen for visual impairments, to help ensure that those who need it are referred to an optometrist. You can download the Eyes Right Toolkit app yourself here.

October 2018