When over 5 million school children in the United States have vision problems, there is a clear need for prevention and diagnosis. However, most eye tests are expensive and difficult to conduct within schools, limiting access to the neediest of children.
It is with that need in mind that Vision Quest 20/20 has created a new eye screening method that is more efficient and affordable. Called Eye Spy 20/20, this test is a video game which adds an enjoyable dimension for kids who take it.
Eye Spy 20/20 has children wearing a pair of red and blue lenses, while playing a treasure hunt game. The coloured glasses allow the testing of each eye individually for vision problems like refractive error and amblyopia, also known as lazy eye.
“By measuring response time in the right eye versus the left eye, it gives us information as to whether one eye is underperforming or not,” said Dr. James W. O’Neil, a pediatric ophthalmologist.
Vision Quest 20/20 is a program developed by the Amblyopia Foundation of America with the goal of addressing eight important aspects of vision testing. Other traditional methods do not incorporate all of these aspects, which are needed to provide the best quality of service.
The limitations of typical eye testing methods are numerous. For example, manual screening requires trained personnel to administer the screening, which create logistical barriers for mass screenings. Photoscreening, on the other hand, does not check the child’s vision as it can only check for certain eye conditions which might impair vision and is also quite costly.
Full eye examinations are the most thorough but are not performed in schools, limiting access to those who cannot afford to visit an eye doctor. Estimates show the Eye Spy 20/20 game would cost about $5 per child, while professional eye exams can cost up to $75. Additionally, many kids with vision problems can still pass these conventional eye tests.
“We want to make them more reliable. We want to make them easier to administer. We want to reach more children,” said O’Neil.
“Automated testing ensures consistent and standardized test administration, eliminates the need for large networks of volunteers, minimizes costs, and facilitates data collection necessary for reporting test results and epidemiological analysis,” explains the Vision Quest 20/20 website. “By integrating recent advances in computer, internet, and video game technology, it is possible to solve our nation’s vision screening dilemma.”
Because the test is automated, minimal training is required to administer these vision screenings while errors based on subjective test interpretations are drastically reduced.
In a pilot project screening 600 kids at an elementary school, school nurse Lucy Samuels says the innovative test is successful.
“The [student] that I was most impressed about, he looked up in the sky and he said, ‘There’s an airplane, and I have never seen an airplane!’ It was so exciting when he got his glasses on,” said Samuels.
“It asks you questions, and you’re supposed to answer them, and if there’s a letter on the top, you have to match the letter on the bottom,” said 8-year-old Sasha, showing pleasure in what could have otherwise been a worrying eye exam.