Using pictures rather than letters in sight tests for people with learning disabilities could help give more accurate assessments of their eyesight, research has found.

The Kay Picture test, which was originally developed to measure visual acuity in young children and uses pictures rather than letters, has also been found to be useful for adults with learning disabilities.

People with a learning disability are 10 times more likely to have serious sight problems than others and this system of picture recognition has proved invaluable for making eye care easier to access.

Hazel Kay of Kay Pictures approached sight charity SeeAbility to help with research to check the pictures were easily recognised and identified by the people who would be using the test. SeeAbility works with adults with learning disabilities raising the awareness of the importance of eye care through its eye 2 eye campaign.

Laura Christie, SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye manager for Yorkshire and the Humber worked with 47 people with a range of mild to moderate learning disabilities in the research, supported by Under the Stars and The Burton Street Foundation in Sheffield. 

The aim was to ensure the pictures would be instantly recognisable as one object, to reduce any confusion during an eye test.

All the pictures were created with young children in mind but when asked most of the participants felt that the images were appropriate for adults too as it was easy to identify what they were. The pictures are also relevant for people with no verbal communication as they can, in some cases, recognise them and point out the correct one from a matching card when prompted.

Those who took part found some pictures easy to identify through speaking or signing like fish, duck, scissors, cat or house. But some pictures were less easy to decipher – a picture of a truck was sometimes called a van, car, tractor or lorry. A sock was sometimes mistaken for a shoe or foot. 

Kay said that the feedback from the research will help Kay Pictures to ensure the right pictures are used in the final test.

“The Kay Picture test makes eye care more accessible for people with learning disabilities who are most at risk of having sight problems,” said Christie.