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Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the Special Grant Initiative to help further our charge to devote resources to assist blind and visually impaired people. The foundation received 160 responses to our initial request for proposal. We wish to thank each and every individual, organization and institution that submitted a proposal. We were very impressed by the overall caliber of the responding organizations and their corresponding proposal submissions. We are truly and gratefully humbled to know that we work in a field with such an impressive group of people.

We would also like to extend a very special thank you to our outside advisory committee — the professionals in the field who helped us evaluate the proposals. We thank you for your time and advice.

The award recipients:

AWARD RECIPIENT: University of Nevada/Reno

Project: NAVATAR, an indoor navigation system for users who are blind.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Eelke Folmer, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Project Goal: To make NAVATAR widely available to blind and visually impaired users by integrating it with Google Maps. NAVATAR allows for large-scale implementation as it requires only a 2D map of an environment and low-cost sensors, already available on smartphones.


AWARD RECIPIENT: Johns Hopkins University

Project: Next Generation of Low Vision Enhancement (LVES 2)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Robert W. Massof, Professor of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience; Director of the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center.

Project Goal: To produce a binocular-style head-mounted display system that enhances a user’s low vision with programmable real-time image-processing that has been optimized for the individual patient.


AWARD RECIPIENTS: Open Mind Foundation

Project: MeyeSight, a vision awareness and self-assessment toolkit and mobile app.

Principal Investigators: Dr. August Colenbrander, Affiliate Senior Scientist at the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute.
Co-leader Stuart Carduner, Founder and Director of MeyeSight (

Project Goal: To enable and encourage those either at risk of–or currently with–vision-disabling diseases to self-test critical aspects of their vision, monitor changes to their vision, assess their visual capabilities and limitations, and gain an understanding of their functional vision in order to seek appropriate care, and to enhance their abilities to function in the world through vision rehabilitation.