MORE than 16,000 people could be living in Ayrshire with some degree of sight loss by 2025, a major conference in Glasgow was told today (Tuesday, March 3).

Around 170,000 people are currently living in Scotland with significant sight loss but the ageing population and rocketing rates of sight-threatening conditions such as diabetes are expected to increase this number unless action is taken according to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

The one-day Scottish Vision Strategy conference brought together clinicians, optometrists, civil servants, social workers and third sector organisations to discuss ways to prevent avoidable sight loss and maximise the independence of those who are blind or partially sighted.

The conference was organised as a collaboration between RNIB Scotland, Guide Dogs Scotland, Royal Blind, Scottish Council on Visual Impairment, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary, in association with Vision UK.

Dr Hazel McFarlane from Troon talked about her experience of growing up with severe sight loss. Last year she was listed as one of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK.

She said: “I accepted the nomination because I want to encourage young people to set their aspirations high, be ambitious, chase their dreams and challenge barriers. If you believe in yourself, then you can do and achieve absolutely anything.”

James Adams, director of the RNIB Scotland, said: “Scotland has led the way in making eye examinations free for everyone, a major step forward in identifying sight problems in time to treat them. But we still need to do more to increase take-up in some of our most disadvantaged areas.”

In Ayrshire, a free telephone counselling service, Need to Talk, offers emotional support and practical advice for living with sight loss. Call 0303 123 9999 or email –