Simon Berry, North East based Optometrist, has invented a simple, yet effective way to make eye tests less frightening and intimidating for those with learning difficulties.

Working with Durham University, Simon Berry has created the VFS (Visual Fixation System), which allows patients to watch a video while their eyes are being tested. For many children with learning difficulties, a trip to the opticians can be stressful, but this invention gives them a chance to watch their favourite video while having their eyes tested. The VFS works by splitting a beam of light reflecting the image from a phone to the patient, allowing the Optometrist to examine their eyes.

Simon Berry has been an Optometrist for over 20 years, having worked in a hospital pediatric clinic throughout his professional career. Over 16 years ago, he set up his own independent optometry practice in Gilesgate, Durham and he also works at Sunderland Eye Infirmary as a specialist Optometrist. This week, Berry appeared on BBC’s Look North discussing the success of the device and his plans to take it nationwide.

Berry sees a lot of children and adults with learning disabilities and keeping these patients engaged whilst trying to complete the various clinical measurements required can be challenging. The VFS was specifically designed for this reason. These are a very important patient as they have an increased risk of having eye problems, with one in ten having an eye disease and 40% will need glasses, a far higher percentage than the general population.

Simon has been working on the device for over three years and hopes it will help a wide range of patients. In particular, it has been used on Autistic patients who may find eye contact uncomfortable, as it hides the Optometrist’s face as they complete the test. It is also useful for young children and babies who find it hard to sit still, and he predicts it will be useful for patients with dementia, too.

The initial prototype was made in collaboration with Durham University and the technology is now licensed to Optimec, a UK company based in Malvern, specialising in the design and manufacture of optically based instrumentation and devices. The VFS is already an invaluable aid in helping examine children and patients with a learning disability in his own practice, since its launch in September. The product is now being tested by Optical Specialists around the UK.

Great Ormond Street Hospital has expressed interest in the device and it is currently being trialled by Aston University, Cardiff University, ABDO (Association of British Dispensing Opticians), and SeeAbility (a national charity). Berry hopes it will be used by Optometrist’s nationwide.

To find out more about Simon Berry’s Visual Fixation System, call their office on 0191 375 7544.

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