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June 25, 2015

New York City to offers free eye tests, glasses to older students

More than 65,000 students in New York City's poorest-performing public schools will have their vision screened and, if needed, get a free pair of eyeglasses, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday.

The new city partnership with Warby Parker, a New York-based company known for its online sales of fashion-conscious eyewear, aims to remove poor eyesight as a barrier to education, the Democratic mayor said in a news release.

It expands vision screenings beyond the usual elementary school years to include middle and high school students in all 130 Community Schools, which are among the city's lowest-achieving schools, the mayor said. The schools offer both academic instruction and social services in an effort to help low-income students achieve a better education.

“For thousands of children who are ready to learn, but whose vision may be holding them back, the future just got clearer and brighter,” de Blasio said.

About 20,000 students will receive eyeglasses from Warby Parker during the next four years, according to the release.

“Our goal is to provide these students with their first pair of glasses for free so they can experience the immediate and direct positive impact that a pair of glasses can have on their life, especially academics,” said Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker co-founder and co-chief executive officer.

The company said it was launched after one of the founders lost his glasses on a backpacking trip and spent the first semester of graduate school squinting in class because replacing them was too expensive.

Previously, free vision screenings were provided only to the city's pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and elementary school students in an effort to identify serious eye conditions early enough for therapy to be effective.

Opening the screening program to middle school and high school students for the first time, the new policy will allow about 65,000 more students to receive free vision screenings.

The city has budgeted $10 million for the expansion of vision screening over the next four years, the mayor said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies poor vision as one of the most prevalent disabling conditions among children.

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