Aston Villa has announced the launch of Villa Vision, in partnership with Aston University, funded by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and the Premier League. In an initiative that is the first of its kind in the UK, Villa Vision sees the Aston Villa Foundation team up with Aston University's Optometry School and optical lens supplier Essilor Vision For Life.
The club will work together to deliver a programme of eye-health awareness lessons in the classroom, free vision and colour vision screening, followed by a more comprehensive eye test and free glasses to those children who require them using a fully operational custom-designed mobile eye care unit.
Funded by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and the Premier League, the project is designed to fill a crucial lack of knowledge surrounding the importance of having an eye test and how preventative measures can ensure, among a host of benefits, a lifetime of good vision.
So far in 2020, the initiative has engaged with over 900 local children and adults through classroom workshops and events.
The project was featured on a recent instalment of BBC Match of the Day, which was filmed in a local school and hosted by CBeebies star Ben Cajee. Children at the school were given a Villa Vision workshop, before a lucky few were given the chance to ask Aston Villa star Matty Cash a few questions about his career over video call.
Matty was also asked what he thought of the project, saying: “It’s great to educate kids, parents and teachers on the importance of eye health. It’s fantastic, really good.”
Nikhil Sonpal, Villa Vision Project Manager and Optometrist, said: “The Villa Vision project gives us a great opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of eye health amongst children and adults within our local communities.
“Clear vision and healthy eyes can play a crucial role in an individual’s learning and development, particularly amongst children, and often this can be overlooked as an essential part of our routine health checks.
“By providing educational workshops, vision screening and eye testing facilities with free glasses, this programme will ensure that Villa Vision can deliver support to those within our community that will feel can benefit from such services, allowing them to have the right visual foundation to succeed and reach their potential.”
Aston University worked alongside the Foundation and Citizens UK to conduct research in the local community, which identified that children and adults in the local area face a number of challenges when it comes to accessing eyecare, including a lack of parental support, awareness, accessibility, language barriers and a misconception about cost.
In addition, it has been shown that children from less affluent areas are nearly 30% less likely to have an eye test than children from more affluent areas, with this number significantly increasing among adults.
The impact of eye conditions and poor eyesight not being addressed includes impacting on self-confidence and self-esteem, lower levels of concentration and disruptive behaviour in the classroom. In turn, these issues can have a negative impact on educational attainment at school.
Villa Vision aims to address these challenges by creating an accessible, educational and exciting programme equipping inner-city children with the tools to learn in order to enhance their educational experience and help with their longer-term prospects.