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On January 19, the Optical Retail Business Alliance (ORBA),, held its first Webinar. This was essentially a “kick-off” session to explain the workings of the group and give members a chance to see how the Web technology worked as well as provide an opportunity to share some thoughts. One issue that came up in the question-and-answer period was the need for the public to better understand the value opticians bring to the eyecare delivery system.

As you may know, independent opticianry is alive and doing very well in Canada. Unlike opticianry in the U.S., Canadian independents have been very strong and quite successful in defining their profession and getting licensing regulations that define their scope of practice in each of their seven provinces. They also have a national training program and mandatory schooling.

Beginning this year, the Canadians are introducing an opticianry branding campaign complete with a logo and objectives. The campaign’s title is “Licensed Optician” with a tag line that states “Vision Refined” and brands the Opticians Council of Canada.
The concept is simple—opticians are a valued part of the eyecare delivery team and they perform an important role in aiding effective and healthy sight. I’ve seen the campaign materials and they are quite impressive.

Actually a consortium of opticianry organizations, the participating delegates in the Opticians Council of Canada come from all Canadian provincial regulatory bodies, associations, and teaching institutions. With this group, the Council will use Web sites, news-letters, and events to promote ongoing updates and progress of the branding program.

It’s interesting to note that all seven provinces in Canada license opticians. That means you must be trained and tested in order to work as an optician (unless you are an opticianry student under supervision). Even with this degree of regulation, the Canadians see a need to inform the public about opticians.

This begs the question, “Does the public in the U.S. appreciate the value of an optician?” In other words, does it understand the brand we know as opticianry? This is not a rhetorical question and the answer to it has meaningful consequences.

One of the critical issues that opticianry faces is simply getting the public to understand what the profession is all about. While opt-ometry and ophthalmology have been able to forge clearer identities (although some confusion about who is who still exists), the optician’s role is still vague to most people.

Opticianry in the U.S. has floundered for several decades with the net result of it losing countless independent businesses for a variety of reasons. Yet, there are many that still survive and provide a level of vision care they are proud to offer. Other opticians work for chains in doctor’s offices. But does the public honestly understand who they are, what they do, and the level of vision and eye health care they provide? Based on anecdotal information, it would seem they do not.

Is it time for an American opticianry branding campaign? Perhaps, but the cost may be far above the level this group can afford. Even so, the value of American opticianry needs to be shared with the public. The benefits would be enormous. Even if it doesn’t help attract more business for the independent sector of opticianry, it will surely give all opticians a level of satisfaction and recognition that has been seriously overlooked for decades…and that alone would be a huge benefit to the profession.

Ed De Gennaro is Director, Professional Content of First Vision Media Group, and the Executive Editor for ORBA.


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