Stephanie Cairns, optometrist for North East charity Sight Service has been shortlisted for a prestigious industry accolade.

Stephanie has been shortlisted for the Low Vision Award in the Opticians Awards 2019, for her role in the provision of an integrated community-based low vision service, which is run by Sight Service on behalf of Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group.

Stephanie works within a team which provides advanced low vision assessments and provision alongside rehabilitation officers and a sensory support team, helping people of all ages and abilities who have many different causes of visual impairment. This includes; lighting and glare protection provision and advice, a wide range of standard magnifiers, app demonstrations and information, emotional support, mobility advice and reassurance.

In December 2018 the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s North East: Eye Health and Sight Loss Report estimated that there are 86,900 people in the North East living with sight loss, with 14,620 of those being registered blind or partially sighted.

Sight Service supports people who are visually impaired living in Gateshead and South Tyneside to live independent and fulfilled lives. It aims to help people who are living with or experiencing sight loss by promoting good mental health, reducing isolation, increasing personal safety, and raising awareness of eye health and the impact of sight loss. It is the only community-based, integrated low vision and rehabilitation service for people, over the age of fourteen, who have a visual impairment in the North East and Cumbria.

Stephanie has more than fifteen years’ experience as an optometrist and holds a range of qualifications including a BSc (Hons) Optometry, Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Optometry and a College of Optometry Higher Certificate in Low Vision. Alongside her work for Sight Service, she acts as chair for the North East Optical Society and vice chair of the Northumbria, Tyne and Wear Local Optical Committee.

The awards shortlist also recognises Stephanie’s work to raise awareness of the support available via community opticians and to increase integrated working. This has included hosting presentations for, and link building with, local rehabilitation officers, habilitation officers, the regional Falls Task Group and learning disability groups. In addition, Stephanie has been involved in the training of North East professionals such as optometrists and dispensing opticians who would like to provide low vision support in practice and instrumental in keeping low vision topics on the local continued education agenda.

Stephanie said of the shortlist: “I am delighted and humbled to be nominated for this award and it would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of my team and Sight Service’s commitment to supporting those who are living with or experiencing sight loss.

“Community opticians play an important role in the provision of support to people with visual impairments and this is something I will continue to promote. I am dedicated to ensuring that help is available to those living with or experiencing sight loss and will continue my work with Sight Service to ensure low vision services are available to those in the local community who require it.”

Stephanie’s shortlist for the Low Vision Award comes as Sight Service is strengthening its strategic delivery. It has recently appointed Sarah French to the role of chief executive and earlier this year, Lin Elder-Atterton MVO took over the role of chair of the board.

Sarah French, chief executive of Sight Service, said: “It’s a privilege to join such an innovative and forward-thinking organisation. Sight Service is leading the way in community-led low vision services and I’m delighted that this unique programme is being nationally recognised. This collaborative approach between optometrists, rehabilitation and support teams enables us to provide better solutions, quicker, for people living with sight loss.

“The work Stephanie and her team deliver is invaluable to those in the local community who require low vision support. I would like to congratulate her on this award nomination, it is truly well deserved.”

Sight Service provides a range of services including vision rehabilitation, low vision support and specialist technology training. In addition, it supports several community groups and offers a range of volunteering and mentoring opportunities.

The 2019 Optician Awards ceremony, during which winners will be announced, will be held at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on Saturday 30 March 2019. The awards cover eighteen categories, including Frame Stylist of the Year and the Low Vision Award which are new for 2019.

For more information visit www.sight-service.org.uk