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During a teaching session with Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy students Aleisha McMurray and Tahlia Hapuku, the year 10 pupils wore goggles simulating specific eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease, then tried to carry out activities while experiencing the difficulties associated with the simulated conditions.
They were then screened by the two OT students with a simple device called an eyes right toolkit (ERT) which detects low vision and sight deficits. And they were taught how to screen each other.
The two students have been working with the pupils, teaching them about looking after their eye health, as part of the school’s physical education course.
The sessions were part of a vision screening pilot programme resulting from a collaboration between Otago Polytechnic, Retina NZ and the Vision Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa involving the use of the ERT device, which is used by health professionals and lay people alike to screen for low vision.
‘‘What Aleisha and Tahlia have been doing with the pupils is very basic screening,’’ research supervisor and polytechnic principal lecturer in occupational therapy Mary Butler said.
The device was simple but very effective, picking up about 80% of sight deficit problems in those screened.
They were expecting to find some schoolchildren who needed to visit their optometrist and had arranged for a half-price consultation for anyone referred through the project, Dr Butler said.
The pupils were learning about computer vision syndrome, how to protect their eyes from the effects of constant exposure to screens and the importance of wearing sunglasses to protect against UV radiation.
And they would be able to download an ERT app, developed by polytechnic Information Technology students, so they could screen family and friends.
The two OT students will report the results of their work with the school pupils at a free save sight symposium at the polytechnic Hub on Saturday.