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Summer 99 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Prevent Blindness Texas

By Diane Ingram, Executive Director
Texas Society to Prevent Blindness, Austin Branch

The National Society to Prevent Blindness was founded in 1908 out of concern for babies born blind due to their contracting gonorrhea from their mothers. Since the blindness caused by this disease can be cured by the simple application of eye drops at the time of birth, the Society's first challenge and success was to force the mandatory utilization of drops for all infants at birth. But that was just the beginning. The Society became dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight for all persons.

The national office is located in Schaumburg, Illinois, with field operations in California, Indiana, Connecticut, Iowa, Florida, Massachusetts, Georgia, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, New York, Arizona, and Kentucky.

In 1956 the Society was established as a nonprofit, voluntary health agency in Texas and was incorporated in 1965. In the late 1960s Dr. Otto Lippman and a small group of dedicated professionals brought the programs of the Society to Austin. They primarily performed vision screenings in the schools and tried to make parents and teachers aware of some eye problems encountered by children that might affect the way they studied and performed in school. It was not, however, until the early 1970s that the Austin branch was officially organized. At that time it was known as the Texas Society to Prevent Blindness. In February 1994, the name was changed to Prevent Blindness Texas.

There are ten branches of Prevent Blindness Texas, with the state office located in Houston. All branches, with a few exceptions, support the programs described below.

The Austin Branch serves twenty central Texas counties (Menard, Kimble, Mason, Gillespie, Llano, Burnet, Blanco, Hays, Caldwell, Travis, Williamson, Bell, Milam, Lee, Bastrop, Fayette, San Saba, McCulloch, Lampasas, Coryell). The programs currently in effect in the Austin area are: Children and Adult Vision Screening, Partners in Prevention Program, Play It Safe Program for School Age Children, Safety in the Home and Workplace, and the Age-Related Macular Degeneration Support Group.

Children and Adult Vision Screening

The Children Screening Program screens children for visual acuity, strabismus and amblyopia. The Adult Screening Program screens for glaucoma. We perform these screenings at day care centers, private schools and health fairs.

Partners in Prevention Program

The Partners in Prevention Program provides free eye exams for homeless and indigent adults. To qualify for this program an individual may earn no more than 150% of poverty level. The exams are donated by ophthalmologists and optometrists in the Austin Branch area. If a client needs glasses after the exam, we contact optical stores in the area to see if we can get glasses donated.

VSP Program

We have a similar program for children 18 years and younger. It is called the VSP Program whereby children can receive both an eye exam and glasses from a vision specialist in the area. The criteria for this program requires that the child or parent must have a social security number and have an income no more than 200% of poverty level.

Play It Safe Program

The Play It Safe Program is an educational kit aimed at children from pre-kinder through third grade. This package includes a video, coloring book and curriculum booklet for teachers. A puppet show that teaches young children about eye health and safety is performed in conjunction with this presentation.

Safety in the Home and Workplace Program

The Safety in the Home and Workplace Program involves presentations and informational material covering all aspects of eye safety and first aid. We make presentations on battery safety, hazards in the workplace, safety in and around the home, and sports safety.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration Support Group

Our Age-Related Macular Degeneration Support Group meets quarterly at different locations throughout the city. We invite different speakers to these meetings to present on topics pertinent to this disease, such as nutrition, low-vision aids, and surgical breakthroughs that would interest persons with AMD.

The Prevent Blindness Office has educational material on most forms of eye injuries and diseases, available upon request.

All of the above services are offered at no charge to the public. Donations, however, are always welcome. For more information, the State Office can be reached at (888) 98-SIGHT. For local information the Austin Branch can be reached at (512) 459-8936. You are also welcome to visit the Prevent Blindness America website at <www.preventblindness.org>. 

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Last Revision: December 1, 2003