Today, October 12th, is World Sight Day. A blind artist has helped create a huge New York street mural to mark World Sight Day carrying a stark message that warns four out of five people worldwide who are blind do not need to be.

The 12ft tall and 54ft wide artwork, sited on a wall in Bushwick, Brooklyn, was painted by blind American artist John Bramblitt, 46, from Denton, Texas, in collaboration with Brooklyn based artist Rubin415. 

It is the latest awareness-raiser from SeeNow.org, which last year launched a 70,000-strong petition asking Congress to dedicate $6.3 million to unlock greater levels of eye care across the U.S. The funds were aimed at reaching 15m more Americans in the most need. As part of this, See Now released an online sight simulator so users could experience how people with cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy see the world around them.

The New York mural is the campaign’s next big push to end the scourge of avoidable blindness. It has been unveiled to coincide with World Sight Day, which takes place on Thursday (October 12). It features a combination of the two artists’ unique styles and carries See Now’s overarching message that four out of five cases of blindness are preventable or curable. It advocates that visual impairment can be prevented with better treatment and greater access to health services, more funding and increased education about eye diseases.

Nick Martin of SeeNow, says: “Imagine being blind purely because of circumstance. It’s almost unthinkable, yet millions of people around the world are suffering from this exact fate.  Even in America one in four children have a vision problem and one in 10 people have a visual impairment. Vision loss and blindness are among the most common disabilities in the world but our recent petition showed the need to unlock funding to help 15m more people across this country. The scale of the issue here in the US alone is stark.”

He added: “Research published recently in Lancet Global Health predicts that without better funding and access to eye care services, the number of people who are blind worldwide will triple by 2050, a rise from 36 million to 115 million.

“That is why on World Sight Day we wanted to do something dramatic to raise the huge issue of avoidable blindness. Having a blind person paint our mural sends a strong message of hope. We urge all those who pass by the mural to stop and consider this stark situation and take time to share the message, and pictures of the artwork, across social media. By working together we can end the injustice of millions of people living with avoidable blindness.”

John Bramblitt, the blind artist behind the mural says: “When you’re talking about vision and vision loss, it’s not just the people without vision loss who need to understand it, it’s everybody. That is what this project conveys. People who are sighted and people who aren’t all working together.

When I first lost my eyesight, I didn’t know anything about blindness, nothing. Then I started meeting other people and I became more and more aware of how preventable blindness is and how easy that can be and the simple things you can do. It is shocking how preventable this is.

“It’s a message that everybody needs to hear. People that most often lose their eyesight are people that don’t have the resources. A lot of preventable sight loss is in children. Everybody of every age needs to get this message. If you know of children that just need basic care, they need to know that it is so simple to avoid this problem and it’s shameful and embarrassing when we don’t do that.

His artistic collaborator on the mural, Rubin415, adds: “Being in New York you’re already exposed to graffiti and street art, so it’s hard to really make people stop. After we’d finished, I had one guy come up to me and he was like ‘what does it mean?’. That’s the perfect reaction. I think what we created makes people stop and think and it’s a better way to reach out to people with the important message from the artwork.”

According to See Now – a global movement working to end avoidable blindness by raising awareness of the injustice – every five seconds someone in the world goes blind and roughly 250 million people have moderate to severe visual impairment; with 89% of those people living in low and middle-income countries.

The See Now campaign aims to mobilise millions to take action and unlock eye health funding, taking a collaborative approach by working closely with various partners in the eye health sector. See Now has became the leading eye health organisation on social media, reaching more than 25 million people.  The Sight Simulator was so popular, it had 100,000+ visitors in just four hours of launching.

See Now is a global campaign created by The Fred Hollows Foundation to increase awareness and drive public mobilization on ending avoidable blindness and vision impairment. A core approach of See Now is to collaborate with existing eye health organizations to elevate and amplify the stories of their work. In addition to the United States, the campaign includes an awareness effort in India. Globally, there are 253 million people living with blindness and vision impairment and four out of five cases are preventable or curable. Visit www.seenow.org for more information. See Now is a project of The Fred Hollows Foundation, an international development organization dedicated to ending avoidable blindness. All rights reserved. 

For more information on the See Now initiative, please visit wsd.seenow.org