The history of eye care and the optical market in the US over the past century has been remarkable, and remarkable times called for visionary optometrists and opticians. Together, these dedicated optometrists and opticians challenged the status quo to find innovative ways to provide consumers with the ophthalmic care, products and service they needed and desired, leading the way to an expanding optical marketplace. Working with providers, suppliers, regulators and consumers, over the years the NAOO has helped to develop the industry and opportunities for individuals and organizations to grow within it through professionalism, consumerism and education. Read on about our continuing journey.

  • 1930s – 1950s

    A number of optical retailers, often owned and operated by optometrists, began bringing modern marketing and retail operations to the ophthalmic goods and services industry. These entrepreneurs introduced innovations to the market for eye examinations and corrective eyewear.  

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  • 1959

    The National Association of Optometrists and Opticians (NAOO) was founded by entrepreneurial Doctors of Optometry (O.D.s/optometrists) and vision industry leaders to:

    • Foster the trade, commerce and interests of all members of the industry
    • Promote enlarged and friendly relations between those engaged in the various types of optometry and opticianry

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  • 1960

    NAOO incorporates as a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit business association.

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  • 1970s

    NAOO supports Federal Trade Commission (FTC) efforts to promote the right of optometrists to use truthful advertising related to their eye exam services and dispensing practices. The association also promoted and supported efforts to empower consumers with the automatic release of prescriptions for eyeglasses, thereby allowing consumers to comparison shop.

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  • 1980s – 1990s

    NAOO supports reduction in state law restrictions proposed by the FTC relating to restrictions on business relationships between optometrists and opticians, opening up business opportunities for both. The Association also encourages expanded marketing efforts to promote certified opticians.

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  • 2000s

    NAOO continues to support efforts to empower consumers related to the required contact lens prescription release later imposed by Congress. It also supports and promotes direct to consumer marketing about the importance of regular eye examinations.

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  • 2010s and Beyond

    NAOO continues its advocacy efforts both inside and outside the industry to foster access to high quality, cost-efficient eyecare and promote fair, vigorous competition for the public’s best interest. It also prioritizes useful, cost-effective continuing education for optometrists and opticians.

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Throughout its history, the NAOO has served as a committed participant in various efforts to grow the industry and help optometrists by building demand for eye care and eyewear. NAOO and its members have provided scholarships to numerous optometry students or provided grants directly to schools of optometry. They have funded opticianry programs at their schools, provided equipment for use by students and sponsored internships for opticians.

NAOO members have sponsored externships and employed optometry students in eye care assistant and optician roles as they studied to become licensed ODs, then participated in job fairs to speed their journey into the practice of optometry. In addition, they have:

  • Organized and participated in innumerable charitable programs both in the US and internationally, bringing health care providers, equipment and eyewear for those without access to regular eye care.

  • Through recruiting and sponsorships of optometrists and opticians for these numerous programs, provided worldwide experiences for providers and an opportunity to bring the gift of sight to many thousands around the world.

The NAOO strives to achieve the mission established by our founding members in 1960 every day. Our work continues. Additional milestones await.