Online Program

Living with Low Vision: Stories of Hope and Independence

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 10:12 a.m. - 10:23 a.m.

John McInerney Jr., MA, Strategic Communications and Marketing, ICF International, Rockville, MD
Neyal J. Ammary-Risch, MPH, MCHES, National Eye Institute, National Insitutes of Health, Bethesda, MD

With the aging of the population, eye diseases and vision loss have become major public health concerns in the United States. Currently, 4.2 million Americans age 40 and older are visually impaired. Of these, 3 million have low vision. By 2030, when the last baby boomers turn 65, the number of Americans who have visual impairments is projected to reach 7.2 million, with 5 million having low vision.

Low vision is a visual impairment not correctable with standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery that interferes with the ability to perform everyday activities. Low vision can result from a variety of diseases, disorders, and injuries that affect the eye. The most common causes include age-related macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. People with low vision may have difficulty recognizing the faces of friends and relatives, getting out in their neighborhoods, reading the mail, shopping, cooking, or watching television.

 The consequences of vision loss may leave people feeling anxious, helpless, and depressed. It is important to remind them that there is hope. Vision rehabilitation services and assistive devices are available to help people with vision loss make the most of their remaining vision and maintain their independence and quality of life.

 Video Development

To raise awareness of vision rehabilitation among people with low vision and their friends, family members, and caregivers, the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) of the National Eye Institute (NEI) at the National Institutes of Health developed a video featuring people living with low vision. In 2012, NEHEP worked with organizations that provide vision rehabilitation services to identify and film individuals with low vision performing a variety of activities in daily life. Working with vision rehabilitation organizations provided NEHEP with direct access to a number of persons with inspirational and uplifting stories, as well as to service providers working with them on a daily basis.

 Sit-down interviews were conducted with each participant, their family members, rehabilitation teachers, and counselors to capture the struggles and successes in overcoming a visual impairment. The use of personal narratives provided a first-hand account of how people with low vision can lead an active and independent life. Presenting these accounts on video allows people to experience them in an intimate manner that cannot be conveyed solely through a printed narrative.

Learning Areas:

Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Explain how vision rehabilitation services and assistive devices can help people living with vision loss maintain or regain their independence and quality of life. Discuss the benefits of referring people with low vision for vision rehabilitation services.

Keyword(s): Public health or related education, Other professions or practice related to public health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the project team manager for the Low Vision Education Program of the National Eye Institute’s National Eye Health Education Program and oversaw the filming, editing, and final production of the video. 
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.