Eye care encouraged ahead of awareness events

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AN Invercargill blind woman is urging people to look after their precious eyes.
“You only get one set,” Southland Blind Citizens secretary Carolyn Weston said.

Mrs Weston is also a board member for The Blind Foundation and this year the two organisations are working in tandem to celebrate International Sight Day next Thursday and White Cane Day the next day.

To help raise awareness, the South City Pharmacy in Elles Rd will have displays on-site organised by Mrs Weston.
“We have [displays] that show what it’s like to be vision-impaired, and advice on what to do and where to go if you might be worried about your eyes.”

Mrs Weston has the genetic syndrome osteoporosis pseudoglioma and was born blind. She started getting some vision at six months old but it developed very slowly.
She eventually suffered a detached retina and lost the lens in her right eye and now has no vision in her right eye and about 5% in her left.

Her guide dog Tane has acted as her eyes for the past few years helping her navigate around town. However, he will retire later this year meaning Mrs Weston will return to the traditional white cane.
“It makes me a bit nervous,” she said.

Using a cane meant having to be more alert and “aware of what it was telling you,” she said.
“A lot of [blind] people use buildings to guide them, so there shouldn’t really be any obstacles on the side of a building.”

Mrs Weston said sighted people and business operators could help make the lives of the blind easier. That included not parking cars on the footpath, putting rubbish and recycling bins close to the kerb, clearing any branches or debris overhang on footpaths, and keeping advertising signs close to the kerb.
“This doesn’t just help the blind but mums with prams, the disabled and elderly.”

Mrs Weston hoped the awareness days would reinforce to people the importance of caring for their eyes. ¬†She said conditions such as glaucoma did not just affect the elderly but those in their 30s or 40s and could “creep up on people”.
“Don’t delay. Have your eyes checked as soon as possible. A replacement set won’t be able to see for you.”

– Jonathan Dine

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