Change in SC law allows nonprofit to provide more kids with free glasses, eyecare

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 9:36 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2022 at 10:50 PM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - So many people know the feeling of sliding on your first pair of glasses and finally being able to see a lot more clearly.

A new law is designed to bring that special moment to more children across South Carolina.

The legislation allows mobile optometry clinics to visit Title 1 schools, offering free screenings and eye exams and fitting and providing students with glasses, with parental consent.

“This will see that our children across the state — and I hope this spreads like wildfire — that they all are able to reach their full potential,” Gov. Henry McMaster said.

McMaster officially signed the new law earlier this year, but he commemorated it Wednesday at North Charleston Elementary School, where he was joined by other elected officials, Charleston County School District leaders and students, and representatives from the national nonprofit Vision to Learn.

The organization lobbied South Carolina’s legislature for the change in law, as its previous language had prohibited Vision to Learn from operating free mobile optometry clinics in South Carolina as it does in other states.

The General Assembly allowed Vision to Learn to operate on a trial basis over the last year before approving the permanent change in law. In that year, the nonprofit reports it provided more than 2,000 students from 17 schools in the Charleston County School District with eye exams, and 1,700 of those kids received free eyeglasses.

“Our program has found that the best way to solve this problem is by bringing access to students right here on campus,” Vision to Learn National Director Damian Carroll said.

District Director of Nursing Ellen Nitz said the new law removes barriers that may be keeping kids from reaching their full potential in the classroom.

“Many of our families will face either financial burdens, transportation issues, parents having to leave work to get to appointments, and then just not even realizing that you need glasses,” Nitz said.

During Wednesday’s event, four CCSD elementary school students received their first pair of glasses, including second grader Taila Sanders, who had selected frames in her favorite color, pink.

“Everything is like so different. It’s like not blurry anymore,” Sanders said.

With the change in law now in effect, Vision to Learn said its next goal is to bring this clinic to more districts across the state and help more South Carolina kids see.

“Our young students experienced unprecedented hardships during the recent pandemic, and now going forward, having access to quality eyecare and prescription glasses will not be one more thing that they or their parents have to worry about,” Rep. William Cogswell, R – Charleston, said.