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Research to Prevent Blindness Continues Low Vision Research Initiative

Partnerships with Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation, Lions Clubs International Foundation, and Consumer Technology Association Foundation, seek to generate solutions for neglected vision loss condition

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) is continuing its research initiative to address urgent needs in understanding and treating low vision.  The $1.4 million, two-pronged initiative involves funding partnerships with Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation (RDPFS), and our newest partner, Consumer Technology Association™ Foundation (CTAF).Low vision is among the 10 most common causes of disability in the U.S., with the National Eye Institute (NEI) estimating that three million people in the U.S. have low vision.

“Low vision is a major, neglected and specific condition with a variety of causes and a common outcome: permanently reduced vision that cannot be improved with regular eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery, causing difficulty in everyday activities of living such as reading, walking and making a meal,” says RPB President Brian F. Hofland, PhD.  “With these grants we are asking leading scientists to address low vision issues with the goal of expanding key knowledge, developing new treatment approaches, and generating technology solutions to enhance vision for those with some remaining sight.”

All three partnership grants are intended to provide seed funding for innovative, cutting-edge and collaborative research which demonstrates out-of-the-box thinking.

The $300,000 RPB/Lions Clubs International Foundation Low Vision Research Award, to be awarded again annually for the next two years, targets damage to the visual system.

“RPB and LCIF were also partners in the past in the effort that created the NEI,” says Hofland. “We are extremely pleased to be working together again to target fundamental gaps in current knowledge in the field of low vision.”

Some of the issues awardees will be challenged to tackle are: What happens to degraded visual input and how is it processed? What are the adaptive strategies in the visual pathway in response to visual impairment?  How does the brain re-organize itself in response to visual system damage?  How can the visibility of objects be enhanced?

“LCIF has a long history of supporting those who are blind and working to avoid preventable blindness,” says Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada, Chairperson, LCIF Board of Trustees.  “Our research grant partnership with RPB allows LCIF to extend our impact while remaining true to one of our primary goals – protecting sight.  Together with RPB, we hope to continue learning more about blindness and find new ways to prevent it.”

Both the RPB/Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation and RPB/Consumer Technology Association Foundation Innovations in Technology Low Vision Research Award will provide two awards, up to $100,000 over one year for each award, to promote the development of assistive devices for persons with low vision. The award will support solutions for persons with remaining functional vision rather than those who are totally blind, with a focus on mobile and/or wearable innovations that can be implemented on multiple platforms, such as electronic tablets or phones. It will also support environmental adaptations which can improve a visually impaired individual’s ability to perform a daily living activity.

“Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation is pleased to continue this collaborative funding project with Research to Prevent Blindness,” says Susan Olivo, Executive Director.  “We believe that blind and visually impaired persons should have the tools and resources necessary to lead independent, productive lives.”

Stephen Ewell, Executive Director of the Consumer Technology Association Foundation (CTAF) says, “CTAF is delighted to join RPB in this funding partnership.  It is our hope that through award programs such as this, collaborative teams of researchers will be inspired to develop technology-based solutions for people with low vision.”

Says Hofland: “The RPB Board of Trustees has made a strategic decision to leverage our resources by creating partnerships with organizations whose missions align with RPB’s. With these two prominent and respected organizations as partners, we expect to make a difference for millions of people whose quality of life is significantly and negatively impacted by this often neglected condition.”

For the RPB/ RDPFS and RPB/CTAF Innovations in Technology Low Vision Research Awards, preliminary applications are due October 17, 2016. For the RPB/LCIF Low Vision Research Award, nominations are due no later than December 15.  Applications will be initially evaluated by RPB/RDPFS/CTAF and RPB/LCIF Review Committees based on innovation and potential significance for the low vision field, as well as on a candidate’s qualifications to carry out the proposed research.  Guidelines, application forms and grant contact information are available at www.rpbusa.org in the Grants & Research section under Low Vision Research Awards.