Background: Special Olympics were organized in 1968 by Eunice Shriver as a program of physical fitness for individuals with mental handicaps. Numerous epidemiologic studies report an increase in visual problems in this population.
Methods: A comprehensive vision screening was conducted at the 1995 Special Olympic World Summer Games to identify the prevalence of visual anomalies in this select group. Testing included visual acuity, refractive error, ocular motor skills, stereopsis, color vision, contrast sensitivity, eye-hand coordination, eye-foot coordination, and an ocular health evaluation.
Results: Nine hundred five special athletes, ranging in age from 8 to 58 years, participated in the screening. More than 65% of the participants had not received eye care for more than 3 years. The most commonly reported symptom was difficulty in seeing. Other ocular health problems included refractive errors, poor distance monocular acuity, and strabismus.
Conclusion: The results of the study indicate that Special Olympians have a high prevalence of vision anomalies that may go undetected. This population demonstrates a high prevalence of refractive errors, decreased visual acuity, ocular health problems, and strabismus. In addition, based on the number of individuals who have not received eye care within the last year, there is a need to increase the availability of vision care to these and other people with mental retardation.