For immediate release
ECOO and Special Olympics Bring High Quality Eye Care to Athletes with Intellectual Disabilities
Special Olympics International and the European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today, creating a partnership that will expand the reach of the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes vision screening program throughout Europe-Eurasia. The collaboration shared between Special Olympics Inc and ECOO will help bring needed vision care services and prescription eyewear to more athletes with intellectual disabilities, as well as build increased public awareness about the specific health care needs of this often marginalized population.
“We are delighted to team up with Special Olympics and its Healthy Athlete Program. This partnership represents a significant step towards promoting eye health and helping to correct vision among people with intellectual disabilities,” said Mr. Armin Duddek, ECOO President. “ECOO is looking forward to engaging in future initiatives that will lead to tangible improvements in the vision of Special Olympics athletes.”
Duddek, as well as the immediate past President of ECOO Wolfgang Cagnolati signed the agreement with Special Olympics as part of their presence at OPT12 in Munich.
People with intellectual disabilities are at increased risk of eye conditions and often live with uncorrected vision. The Special Olympics Opening Eyes program has found globally that more than 37% of Special Olympics athletes need new glasses and 18% have an eye health condition that requires follow-up. In some countries the program finds over 50% of athletes need new glasses.
“Today is a momentous day for our athletes in Europe/Eurasia as the Opening Eyes program, which has helped so many Special Olympics athletes already, expands even further throughout the region,” according to Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia President and Managing Director, Mary Davis. “We are honored to be working so closely with the European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) to build a stronger program so more of our athletes can get the vision care they need from specialist eye care professionals. The partnership also aims to increase awareness amongst the public and vision care specialists in Europe as to the unique vision care needs of our athletes and people with intellectual disabilities which is a significant step forward,” added Mary Davis.
The partnership will increase volunteer participation of eye professionals at Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes events throughout Europe, foster communication between the organization’s respective memberships, encourage the development of programs and initiatives that further both organizations’ missions, and allow Opening Eyes to reach more athletes.
About the European Council of Optometry and Optics
ECOO is the European umbrella organisation which represents the interests of more than 75,000 optometrists and opticians from 31 European countries. It aims to promote eye health to the public across borders and to harmonise clinical and educational standards of optometric and optical practice throughout Europe. Its mission is to eliminate avoidable blindness and visual impairment in Europe; to create a harmonised professional and educational system for optometry and optics based on the European Diploma in Optometry and Optics, and to develop the scope of practice for optometrists and opticians to the degree that the same high standards apply and are mutually recognised in all European countries. Further information about ECOO can be found at www.ecoo.info/
About Healthy Athletes
Healthy Athletes is the primary health-related program for Special Olympics, providing free health screenings to athletes with intellectual disabilities in seven different areas -- (vision, hearing, oral health, healthy lifestyles, general fitness, podiatry, and sports physicals). The need for Healthy Athletes is great. Despite a mistaken belief that people with intellectual disabilities receive the same or better health care than others, they typically receive sub-standard care or virtually no health care at all. Special Olympics has shown that many health concerns are more common and significant for people with intellectual disabilities. Among Special Olympics athletes globally, 39% have obvious, untreated tooth decay; 26% fail hearing tests; 20% have low bone density; and 18.0% have eye health condition that requires follow up.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly 3.5 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in places like China and from regions like the Middle East to the community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org.