The first known visual acuity chart in Inuktitut, Cree, and Ojibwe

Story ideas from McGill University.
Published: 14 March 2023

A large majority of Nunavik Inuit report Inuktitut as their first language. In their work in Puvirnituq, McGill University ophthalmologist Dr. Christian El-Hadad and his colleague Shaan Bhambra, a recent graduate of McGill’s medical school, noticed that many patients either read only, or mainly, Inuktitut. This made visual acuity testing using the standard Latin alphabet chart difficult for some patients. The doctors developed the first known visual acuity charts in Canadian Aboriginal syllabics, an alphabet used in Inuktitut, Cree, and Ojibwe. From a sample of patients at the McGill University Health Centre who read Inuktitut and English, the doctors found that most patients received an equal or better score using the Inuktitut chart compared to the standard Latin alphabet chart. “This visual acuity chart was important to develop to expand care for Indigenous Canadians in their native languages, and to demonstrate that visual acuity measurements using a patient’s native alphabet can provide equal or improved visual acuity results. We hope to provide these visual acuity charts to eye care professionals who work with Indigenous populations to provide care that respects and recognizes the uniqueness of these communities,” said Bhambra.

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