Nonprofits Conduct Free Vision Screenings for Des Moines Students

DES MOINES, Iowa – For the first time two nonprofits are partnering to give Des Moines Public Middle School students free vision screenings and glasses.

According to Prevent Blindness Iowa one in four Iowa kids has a vision impairment.

Prevent Blindness Iowa Assistant Director Amy O’Brien said the students will first take an eye screening and if they don’t pass the student will go to the “Vision to Learn” mobile van and receive a modified eye exam.

“There is an incredible missed opportunity for these kids. They unfortunately have not received these needed services prior to this, so we are very grateful that we are able to come in now and hopefully that’ll make a difference for their education going forward,” O’Brien said.

"Prevent Blindness Iowa" and "Vision to Learn" travel to 15 elementary and five middle schools in the district. This is the first year the nonprofits travel to both elementary and middle schools.

Callanan School Nurse Sone Loven said glasses can help a student in the classroom.

“In the classrooms I would say maybe about 80 percent is visual, so being able to see would help them focus and would help them participate if they understand what is going on in the classroom,” Loven said.

O’Brien said the nonprofits plan to screen around 9,000 students this year.

“We really just try and stress the importance to them on what it can mean for their education. If they are in class and they can’t see the board, or they can’t see what the teacher is doing in front of the class it is really going to have a negative impact on their education,” O’Brien said.

In 2017, the nonprofits screened over 7,000 elementary school students. Seventeen percent of those students were referred for glasses.

“Instead of having the parents take time off work and then taking their students to the eye doctor, it’s offered right here at school,” Loven said.

Students who need glasses will receive two free pairs. One to keep at home and the other at school. Students will receive the glasses in approximately two weeks.

The nonprofits fund the program through donors.