Need a wheelchair-accessible optician in Hong Kong? This is the place for you
Maximised floor space, handheld testing equipment and stair-free access have helped SeenCere Optical in Tuen Mun serve 800 people with disabilities since opening four years ago. And got it nominated for a Spirit of Hong Kong award
At 90 sq ft, the optical shop is far from spacious, but its accommodative design has put hundreds of wheelchair-using customers at ease.
Lo Tik-fu, an optometrist at SeenCere Optical, said the Tuen Mun practice had been set up with accessibility in mind.
“It has to be on level ground. We don’t want wheelchair users to climb even a single step to reach us,” he said.
To accommodate larger wheelchairs, the shop, which is located inside a shopping centre, has sliding glass doors to allow for the maximum possible floor area.
“We use a handheld autorefractor [to look through during eye tests] to spare wheelchair users the trouble of adjusting themselves in front of a conventional tabletop autorefractor,” Lo added.
Apart from inclusive facilities and equipment, location was also important. Lo said: “It took us two years to find and get this place, which is conveniently situated near the Tuen Mun Eye Centre under Tuen Mun Hospital.”
The idea of setting up a barrier-free optical shop stemmed from Lo and other co-founders’ experience helping a lady in a wheelchair with an eye test in 2011.
“It took four men to transfer her into an examination chair,” Lo recalled.
The group then realised wheelchair users need special care when getting an eye test.
Lo said he believed their services could help disabled people, who struggle to get eye tests in mainstream optical shops in Hong Kong.
“Not many examination rooms are big enough to let wheelchairs in,” he said.
SeenCere, which also serves the able-bodied, has served about 800 people with disabilities since opening four years ago. Lo and his colleagues hope that number can grow when they go ahead with plans to start a home visit service for handicapped people who cannot make it to their shop.
SeenCere Optical has been nominated by the South China Morning Post for its Spirit of Hong Kong Awards, which honour inspirational individuals and groups that make the city a better place to live.
The Post has recommended the enterprise for the Lion Rock Entrepreneur awards, which honours enterprises that have succeeded despite difficult circumstances.
After operating at a loss during its first two years, Lo said, SeenCere was now breaking even.
The store has launched a “suspended eye examination” scheme, modelled on the suspended coffee concept gaining popularity around the world, whereby customers can pay for a drink but not take it, leaving it for someone who cannot afford it to claim later.
“A Good Samaritan can buy a suspended eye examination coupon for someone who needs it,” Lo said.