November 17, 2021

Schiff, Hayes Introduce See the Board Act to Equitably Expand Free Vision Care in Schools

Today, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) introduced the See the Board Act, legislation to help millions of students access optometry care at no cost to their families, bringing life-changing mobile vision services to schools in both rural and urban communities and helping ensure children have the opportunity to succeed in the classroom.

Due to inequitable access to vision care, it is estimated that more than two million students nationwide go to school each day without the glasses they need to fully participate and succeed in class. The consequences can reverberate throughout their entire academic career. Children with uncorrected vision are more likely to perform poorly in school and suffer from lower self-confidence. These consequences can lead students to be misdiagnosed with behavioral disorders and cause struggles throughout children’s lives.

“No child should be prevented from experiencing the full benefits of an education because they cannot see the board at the front of their classroom. Bringing no-cost optometry care directly to students will have a significant impact on low-income families who cannot access eye care or cannot afford to miss work to travel to a specialist," said Schiff. "Breaking down a systemic inequitable access to eye care will have a ripple effect through the entire lives of children who should be given every opportunity to thrive in the classroom from their earliest days.”

“Many families need assistance with vision and eyecare for their children. Often, eyecare is overlooked at home due to the cost of eyeglasses and the lack of access to an optometrist. Children with unaddressed vision impairments often struggle to complete their studies and lag behind their classmates. This disconnect has likely increased during the pandemic, while students had even less access to intervention services. The See the Board Act seeks to improve access to free, mobile vision services for students in public elementary and secondary schools, to eliminate barriers and allow children to concentrate in the classroom and stay engaged,” said Hayes.

The See the Board Act will authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to deliver grants to nonprofit organizations that provide cost-free, mobile vision services for students in public elementary and secondary schools. The nonprofits would be able to use these grant funds to purchase portable optometry equipment and to pay for operational costs, including direct health care, service delivery costs, and personal protective equipment.

While vision services for low-income families, including a free pair of glasses for children, are covered under Medicaid, many eligible families face barriers that prevent them from accessing these services. Families are often unable to take time away from work and school or are unable to secure transportation to visit eye doctors.

The See the Board Act is endorsed by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, National Disability Rights Network, and Vision to Learn.