Having been in the vision care field for more than 40 years, I can happily say that we’ve come a long way in DE&I. When I first started doing lab work, I had to stand on a stool a la Norma Rae (Crystal Lee Sutton in real life) to use some of the equipment because the lab was designed for a man’s height, and I am 5 feet 2 inches tall. Very few women were licensed opticians in Connecticut at that time, few women were in optometry, and even fewer in ophthalmology, never mind people of color. Those groups rarely held positions on state boards or agencies, as well. Slow and challenging at first but pushing forward, vision care and vision care professionals have evolved to better represent diverse populations.

Near the end of 2023, Vision Monday described the initiatives and programs that are gaining ground for DE&I efforts in eyecare and eyewear. One group leading those efforts is Black EyeCare Perspective, founded by optometrists Drs. Adam Ramsey and Darryl Glover, designed and created to cultivate and foster lifelong relationships between Black eyecare professionals and the eyecare industry. Their industry partnerships and programming support their 13 percent promise, a call for equity in eyecare through awareness, actionable change and accountability, to align their representation more closely with the United States Census population (13.4 percent Black or African Americans).

In 2023, Latinos en Optometry (LEO) launched their inauguration event at Vision Expo East in New York. Their goals are to increase the number of Latino students in optometry schools, provide resources and communication for Latinos in optometry, provide resources and communication for the eyecare community who serve the Latino community, be a conduit between the Latino community and eyecare industry and provide CE to all optometry. For opticians, in 2021 The Vision Council launched Opening Your Eyes: The Vision Council Scholarship Fund that supports a pathway into the optical industry for students from under-represented communities. Covering tuition, certification and exam fees, the Fund’s scholarships support students pursuing an associate degree in ophthalmic dispensing at participating schools within the National Federation of Opticianry Schools (NFOS.)

These are only three of many organizations, schools and businesses acting and promoting awareness of DE&I and the potentials of the vision care profession. Of course challenges remain, but with initiatives like these, the vision care field will support different groups of individuals, including people of all races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders and sexual orientations.

Linda Conlin
Pro to Pro Managing Editor
[email protected]