Report estimates 50,000 people with learning disabilities known to services in UK have visual impairment

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This report, jointly funded by the RNIB and SeeAbility aims to estimate how many people with learning disabilities in the UK are likely to have visual impairments.

The presence of visual impairments can significantly impair the independence and quality of life of people with learning disabilities, but currently there is no national monitoring of the number of such people. The report uses epidemiological data from the Netherlands and Denmark to answer two questions:

1. How many people with learning disabilities in the UK are likely to have visual impairments?
2. How will this number change over the coming decades?

Results suggest

• approximately 50,000 people with LD who are known to services in the UK have visual impairment (19,000 children, 31,000 adults)
• an additional 15,000 are blind (4,000 children, 11,000 adults)
• there may be an additional 44,000 adults with learning disabilities and visual impairment and 11,000 with learning disabilities and blindness not known to adult health or social care learning disabilities services
• an estimated 32,000 children with learning disabilities have myopia (shortsightedness) ; 55,000 hyperopia (‘longsightedness’ )
• an estimated 11,000 adults with LD known to services have severe myopia and 8,000 severe hyperopia

The authors predict an approximate 0.5% rise in these figures each year over the next two decades

The Estimated Prevalence of Visual Impairment among People with Learning Disabilities in England, Emerson  E & Robertson J,  Improving Health and Lives: Learning Disabilities Observatory

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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