Orbis International is a nonprofit organization that has worked to treat preventable blindness for over 40 years. In collaboration with its many partners, Orbis creates opportunities for professionals to learn how to provide eyecare and treatment within their communities. The organization does this by training community health workers, as well as surgeons in urban centers, which opens up new access to quality care for people with vision loss.
We had the pleasure of talking with the President and CEO of Orbis International, Derek Hodkey, in one of our Spotlight Sessions. We discussed Orbis’ impressive ventures, such as the Flying Eye Hospital and CyberSight, but we also covered what inclusion and accessibility mean to him.
Here are some key takeaways from his interview:
#1: Train from the top
“Creating the opportunity for people to learn to deliver care in their communities is all about fighting avoidable and preventable blindness. And so for us, it really does come down to looking at that whole universe of people that are part of treating eye and vision issues.”
At Orbis International, the goal is to inspire and mentor health practitioners to become experts who also fight to prevent blindness and treat people with low vision. Creating a top-down training approach that educates health practitioners ensures that the people who come to them for treatment will receive the help they need equitably and effectively. As a society, we have to meet the needs of people with low vision by caring for them at the right time, which can make all the difference.
#2: Access is key to care
“In too many countries, what we find is that people who could easily go and get treated for cataracts or go and get a pair of glasses, don't have those opportunities. And so for us, it really is about building that health system so that people have access to those opportunities because the percentage of people that are living with avoidable and preventable blindness is very high compared to those that are living with irreversible blindness.”
90% of vision loss can be prevented or treated. Orbis works tirelessly to pass along this knowledge and make basic healthcare accessible to the people who need or want treatment. They do this while continuously training health practitioners to make a difference in their patients’ quality of life.
#3: Organizational inclusion is essential
“Does the leadership, do the staff really reflect the communities that you're serving? Are you really aligning your teams and your organization to make sure that staff feel that they can come with it? Bring their full selves to work, that there are policies that really put in place the things that are important to ensure equity and access.”
It all starts at home. If you want to work on including people with low vision in your healthcare program and treatment methods, then you need to hire them. They bring a wealth of understanding and experience to their roles and represent the population being cared for. Your staff and leadership should reflect the values of your organization.
#4: The world stage is watching
“And so for me, I think at the end of the day, what I'd like people to understand is that a focus on, no pun intended, a focus on vision for vision loss prevention and sight loss prevention is something that provides so many benefits to people. It's part of the 7 of the 10 UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Preventing blindness and treating low vision is a goal for the world, not just a single community. If we’re able to help people with low vision avoid progression into blindness, make more treatments accessible, and ensure that training health practitioners make a realistic impact, then we’re aligned with the goals of even the United Nations. Orbis International’s mission is universal and in everyone’s best interest.
Derek Hodney shared some great words of wisdom about inclusion from a corporate perspective, the importance of building an available healthcare system, and how necessary it is to train people to fight for preventative eye care. All of these topics are connected by accessibility. So, suppose we work to build initiatives that prioritize access. In that case, people with low vision will be able to receive the treatment and opportunities they deserve in environments that prioritize their needs. If you want to watch more of our Spotlight Sessions series, you can find them all here.
If you are a disability advocate or have a nonprofit organization and want to share your story with the world, contact accessiBe’s Nonprofit Partnership Program so we can get to know you better.