- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 26, 2000

Those two things below my forehead on either side of my nose haven't worked very well since I was diagnosed as nearsighted in third grade. Fifty-five percent of Americans wear some form of vision-correction device, according to the the American Optometric Association (AOA), and I am one of them.
The organization, made up of more than 30,000 eye care specialists, has been around for 102 years to make sure people take care of their windows to the world. Stop by the AOA Web site to learn about the delicate and miraculous world of sight.

American Optometric Association

Site address: www.aoanet.org


The AOA was founded in 1898. Its headquarters are in St. Louis, and the group has an office in Alexandria. The Web site was created in 1995.

Creator quotable:

"We created the site to help the public understand the importance of taking care of their eyes and vision," says Dr. Howard J. Braverman, president of the association. "Since vision impacts upon and affects nearly everything that people do, the association made a commitment to build and maintain a Web site that addresses a very broad range of topics."

Word from the Webwise:

The AOA backs up its catch phrase, "The eyes have it," with a tightly designed, comprehensive cyber-stop to teach about the health, safety and care of the human eye.
Five section headings, "Keeping Your Eyes Healthy," "Educational Center," "Media Center," "Managed Care Center" and "Meet the AOA," reside on a simple left-side menu. When clicked individually, each option opens to reveal drop-down menus filled with places to explore.
The most relevant section to the patient or consumer, "Keeping Your Eyes Healthy," offers nine areas, including one on common vision conditions; a deeply developed section on contact lenses; a look at 11 eye diseases; and information on protective eyewear, first aid and corneal modification.
I had no idea six surgical procedures are available to alter the cornea, curing nearsightedness and farsightedness. I wish the site had gone into a little more detail on the procedures; I would like to choose one to help me.
The AOA instead has concentrated on some much less drastic ways to take care of the eyes and offers features on children's vision covering infants' first sight and suggestions to help stimulate the optical nerve through activities and toys and some handy monthly eye care tips.
This area features a large illustration that highlights the correct posture and distance needed to protect vision when using a computer. Additionally, a nice list of articles for the entire family provides tips on going out for Halloween, avoiding injuries from fireworks, protecting eyes from ultraviolet radiation and using eye drops correctly. It also has suggestions for better living for older adults.
Visitors with a job but no health insurance should check out the fantastic program developed by members of the AOA, Volunteers in Service in Our Nation (VISION) USA. This nonprofit charity helps donate eye care and glasses to families in need. The site provides full details under the "Meet the AOA" section.

Ease of use:

Despite the tendency to pound visitors over the head with the message to "visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye examination," this site is a concise powerhouse of information, thanks to lots of text and a few graphics. Many types of programming are combined slyly for an enjoyable viewing experience.
I would suggest that the AOA move the link to its fantastic selection of consumer guides (offering everything from an explanation of an eye exam to information on containing eye care costs) from the far right-hand side of the opening page. Folks with a smaller screen capacity may miss that link. The AOA also should incorporate a site map, an "Ask the Optometrist" section, a message board or a combination of those features.

Don't miss:

Hidden among the site's many pages are small buttons referred to as "eye-openers." Click on one to open a pop-up box and learn some amazing facts. For example, Benjamin Franklin didn't invent bifocals, and the Chinese wore tinted glasses for superstitious reasons 2,000 years ago.

Family activity:

Teach mom and dad that light travels in a straight line or illustrate the effect a lens has in bending light rays using a dark room, poster board, a sheet of waxed paper, scissors, pushpin, darning needle, masking tape and a table lamp. Complete instructions can be found within the "Educational Center" under "Teacher's Center."

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

A colorful children's section with a simple explanation of how the eye works, safety tips, a few optical illusions and a quiz will keep junior occupied temporarily. Parents or teachers might want to extend learning opportunities by printing out some AOA-developed educational activities that allow students to use their peepers and a pencil to scientifically explore the mystery of vision.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is changing constantly. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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