Approximately one in four children in the United States need eyeglasses, yet in many communities it remains challenging for children and their families to access vision care. Vision to Learn, a nationwide nonprofit, and Ford Fund partner is on a mission to ensure young students get the eye care they need. In the schools they have supported, as many as 95 percent of students now have access to proper eyewear.
"We have cared for so many kids that had never been to the eye doctor or their parents just didn't know that they couldn't see," shared Tressel Flaggs, Vision to Care’s Eastern Michigan Program Manager. "It’s so rewarding to hand students their glasses for the first time and witness them see the world crystal clear."
Building on their programming in Michigan since 2016, Vision to Learn is launching its services in Northeast Ohio communities near Ford’s Ohio Assembly Plant and Ford’s Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1. Ford Fund’s catalyst grant will help Vision to Learn provide access to eye care for over 5,000 public school students in Northeast Ohio.
Breaking Down Barriers to Healthcare Access
One of the biggest obstacles to youth healthcare access is the difficulty parents face in taking time off work for appointments. Vision to Learn addresses this barrier by bringing mobile clinics to schools and community centers, meeting students right where they are. Both an optometrist and optician work with the students, providing mobile vision screenings, comprehensive eye exams and eyeglasses to students. This approach keeps students in school throughout the day and comes at not cost to their families.
Seeing Clearly: Students Share Their Stories
Several students who received eye care with Vision to Learn have expressed their gratitude for the positive impact on their lives. One elementary school student, who had congenital glaucoma, shared his excitement after receiving eye care. "I can see so much better, and I look cool!". Another student wrote, "You have made my life better. Having glasses is like having five houses. I really am thankful; it helps me a lot." A third student shared their appreciation writing "Thanks for the glasses. I really need glasses so I can see better and read better. My brother says thanks, he really needed them too."
Reflecting on these stories, Tressel described the impact Vision to Learn’s work has allowed her to make. "We often meet students who shy away from things at school because they can’t see and don’t recognize challenges with their vision. After they’ve received their glasses, teachers notice that their students’ confidence levels improve and their test scores show that."
To date, Vision to learn has screened more than 2,600,000 youth, examined more than 480,000, and provided glasses to more than 390,000. To support this Ford Fund community partner, visit Vision to Learn to learn more.