Scott Watkin, National Co-director for Learning Disabilities, says People With Learning Disabilities Need Good Eyecare




Date: November 2009

Scott Watkin, National Co-director for Learning Disabilities, says People With Learning Disabilities Need Good Eyecare

Scott Watkin is the Department of Health’s National Co-director for Learning Disabilities. As a person with a learning disability himself, Scott champions the needs of people with learning disabilities. After his recent experience of eye surgery, Scott is keen to see that good eye care is on the agenda for everyone, whatever their ability. Martin Thomas of SeeAbility has recently spoken to Scott who says “If you get the chance to improve your sight – go for it. It changed my life: it’ll change your life too”. Read on to find out more about the messages Scott wants to share to improve eye care.

Scott Watkin has Keratoconus. This causes the cornea, the clear layer at the front of the eye, to thin and become cone shaped. These changes cause:

  • Blurred and distorted vision.
  • Difficulties with reading.
  • Problems with glare.

Keratoconus can be treated with contact lenses up to a certain point. After a while the contact lenses no longer give clear vision and a corneal graft is needed. This is the situation Scott found himself in. Martin Thomas of SeeAbility says, “When Scott was first told he would need a corneal graft he was initially reluctant. Scott told me he took a year in making his decision to go ahead with his operation.”


Scott knew his sight was deteriorating so at his next hospital visit he made his mind up and decided to have the operation.


The next step for Scott was to find out all about the operation. He explains, “They took time to explain the treatment I could have and they made sure I understood what they meant. They took me through all the [eye] tests I needed. They used language I could understand and explained that after my operation my sight wouldn’t improve overnight”.


On the day, Scott was apprehensive about the operation. He describes how he felt, “I had been anxious and nervous on the day of the operation and felt unwell.” Scott came through the operation well, and the hospital helped his recovery by listening to and meeting his needs. He explains, “The hospital made reasonable adjustments for me and let me stay overnight after the operation. They also arranged for social care staff to come to my home to apply my eye drops for me in the weeks after my operation”.


It has taken around six months for Scott to fully appreciate the difference the operation has made to him. Good eyesight has opened up other possibilities for Scott. He says, “I’m also able to achieve another of my ambitions. I’m thinking of applying for my provisional driving licence”.


Scott’s surgery took place at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead. Scott comments, “If it wasn’t for the Queen Victoria Hospital I don’t think I’d be where I am now. I really want to express my thanks to them.” Another operation is required for his other eye and Scott speaks confidently of having the operation when necessary.


Scott’s positive experience of eye surgery means that he is keen to help other people who are in a similar position. Scott recommends making sure you understand the operation and the effect it will have. He says, “Take your time and make sure that you are supported by someone who knows you”.

Scott is keen to make sure that all people with learning disabilities can access and benefit from the highest quality eye care and general health care. The willingness of the eye care professionals who treated him to take time to communicate clearly made a big difference to Scott and his future. He says, “If it took me a year to come to the decision to have the operation it may take people with more complex needs much longer to come to the same decision. For that to happen you need to have perseverance and people around you to offer you the information you need and emotional support.” Scott concludes, “If you get the chance to improve your sight – go for it. It changed my life: it’ll change your life too”.

SeeAbility’s eye2eye campaign is working to transform eye care for people with learning disabilities by providing information, advice and support for:

  • people with learning disabilities,
  • their families and carers,
  • eye care professionals
  • health and social services staff.

With 1 in 3 people with learning disabilities likely to have sight problem it is vital that people are supported to attend regular eyesight tests and to access eye care services. No-one one is too disabled to get the eye care they need.

For further information about the issues raised in the article go to or call 01732 755066.

– ENDS –

Issued by SeeAbility, for further information please contact:

Monica Cornforth on 020 8997 1261 or 07811 147 192


  • SeeAbility is the operating name for The Royal School for the Blind, a national charity which has for over 200 years provided support for people who are blind or partially sighted and have additional disabilities.
  • SeeAbility currently provides a range of services in; Birmingham, Bristol, Devon, East Sussex, Hampshire, Humberside, London, Sheffield, Somerset, Surrey and West Sussex.
  • SeeAbility offers a wide range of specialised residential, community and rehabilitation services for people with a visual impairment and additional disabilities. Our aim is to provide each individual with the support they need to develop essential life skills for greater independence and a fulfilling life.
  • SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye Campaign, a community-based initiative, is improving eye care and vision for people with a learning disability.
  • Look-Up provides information and advice on eye care and vision for people with learning disabilities.
  • SeeAbility’s Central Office is based in Epsom, Surrey. For further information call 01372 755000 or visit


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