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Published: 11.03.2015

A few months ago, Maryanne Diamond [Immediate Past President, World Blind Union] invited me to speak at ‘Vision2014’, the International Society for Low Vision Research and Rehabilitation’s 11th International Conference on Low Vision in 2014 in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this month.

As I have never been able to refuse any “request” from Maryanne I accepted quickly (and I am very glad I did)! Of course, I also enjoyed the opportunity to visit the beautiful city of Melbourne in April, and I learnt a lot from listening to the other speakers.

My problem: I was the last speaker at a conference which had enjoyed high quality contributions from a succession of expert practitioners – How could I contribute anything in such a context?

Rather than pretending to know more than the experts, I decided to issue a ‘call to arms’: Let us work to maximise the impact of our efforts to the advantage of those whose interests we serve.

With collective effort, we have opened some ‘windows of opportunity’ to mobilise resources for vision-related issues; it is now essential that we seize them. The new WHO Global Action Plan, UNCRPD, the post-2015 agenda and bilateral opportunities in countries such as the UK and Australia create the potential to do more and to do it better.

The challenge is implementation, particularly at the national level.

As President of IAPB, I consider it my duty to advocate that all organisations working in the interests of the vision impaired, need to explore or strengthen partnerships with allied campaigns. Issues like ageing, diabetes and broader disability issues will demand more attention and resources. Rather than competing with them, we should support them and seek to ensure that vision-related issues receive their due care and attention.

If we can get the priority – national implementation – right and build the global partnerships we need, we will be able to say we have seized the opportunity. We will be able to feel confident we have maximised the opportunities for a better life for vision impaired people around the world.

Thanks for the invitation Maryanne.