A sight loss campaigner who worked closely with the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) has won Campaign of the Year at the Vision Pioneer awards for her ‘No Water’ initiative. Irenie Ekkeshis launched the campaign, which highlights the risk of wearers using non-sterile water to clean contact lenses, in 2011 – having lost the sight in her right eye after being diagnosed with Acanthamoeba Keratitis.
Judges at London’s Grange Tower Bridge Hotel acknowledged the impact of the initiative, which saw the BCLA produce its own ‘No Water’ stickers for use on contact lens packaging. The practice has since been adopted in a number of other countries across the world, including America, and contact lens manufacturer Clearlab adopted the label for all of its contact lens packaging in the UK.
The 36-year-old from London, who runs an innovations consultancy, said: “It’s been great to work closely with the BCLA on this project and it’s been pleasing to see the impact the campaign has had. Being diagnosed with a rare and debilitating eye infection changed my life in the course of one weekend. It was awful, the most horrific disease you could imagine and I wanted to do something to stop it happening to others. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of the advice you here around contact lens wear can be quite complicated but the ‘No Water’ message is relatively simple and easy to get across.”
ClearLab became the first manufacturer to put the ‘No Water’ message on all of its packaging at the point of production, and Irenie is hopeful others will follow suit. She added: “We have come a long way but there’s a lot more that could be done. We need more companies to get on board and I would really like to focus now on stopping the use of images of water in contact lens advertising. That is pretty counter-intuitive and needs to stop. We need to build a coalition of support to commit to stop making the association between water and contact lenses.”
Other shortlisted campaigns at the awards included Eye Heroes, Blind Veterans UK’s ‘No One Alone’ and Guide Dogs’ Pavement Parking.
BCLA chief executive Cheryl Donnelly said: “The ‘No Water’ campaign has been a major success and we are delighted that Irenie has received the recognition she deserves. She has worked tirelessly with us to lobby the industry and make a real difference. We look forward to seeing the campaign go from strength to strength in the months and years ahead.”