Roxann Mayros headshotby Roxann Mayros, CEO of VisionServe Alliance

  1. The field of blindness and low vision rehabilitation is under tremendous strain and undergoing tremendous change due to the increase in seniors seeking services, changes in demographics, the entry of occupational therapists as service providers, lack of third party reimbursement, changes within the Ability One program, and more. If we do not change our business models and service delivery programs, we will go out of business – sooner rather than later.
  2. The nonprofit service providers (VisionServe Alliance members) will be impacted by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in late 2017, which contains sweeping changes for individuals, corporations, and for the work of charitable nonprofits. The changes create immediate uncertainty about what nonprofits will need to do (sooner rather than later) to comply and what changes state and local governments will make in response – such as changing their own tax codes and making spending cuts.
  3. Our future clients will have vastly different needs than today’s. We all know the numbers – 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 every single day, leading to upwards of 15.8 million Baby Boomers who will need vision rehabilitation services over the next few years. These folks will look very different from the clients we have been serving.  They are younger acting, healthier, technologically connected, and will need to work in their later years due to the degeneration of the pension system and low rate of savings.  Baby Boomers will not patiently wait, nor will they want to learn how to pour a cup of coffee or make a grilled cheese sandwich.  Instead, they will say, “I’ll figure that stuff out – teach me how to use my I-Pad so I can Facetime with my grandchildren.”  Or, “I need technology first so I can continue to read.”  Or, “I need to see better.”  Traditional vision rehabilitation programs must change and modernize or non-traditional vision rehabilitation providers (Ots, etc.) will be the primary source for services sooner rather than later.
  4. There is less Government (Federal, state, local) funding for vision rehabilitation, employment programs, university education programs, and less government purchasing from our production agencies. This is, and will in the future, impacting the success of our current business models.
  5. This field needs to talk and collaborate. Silos must come down.  Right now, schools for the blind function separate from adult rehabilitation organizations, and they function separate from manufacturing/service organizations, and they function separate from State services, and they function separate from the Veterans Administration, and they all function separate from the medical community … and on and on and on.
  6. We need more trained and educated vision rehabilitation professionals. VisionServe Alliance members together employ more VRTs and O & Mers than the Veteran’s Administration and State governments together.  If we do not create more vision specific professionals, then generalists will take over.  Fact:  There are 200,000+ occupational therapists in the United States.  There are 4,172+ ACVREP certified vision rehabilitation professionals (668 CVRTs, 493 CLVTs, 2,936 COMS, 75 CATIS and 19 who recently passed an exam).  Even though these numbers continue to increase, I think you can see the disparity in potential service providers.
  7. This field must develop evidence based practices that are commonly used, and we must begin to collect and disseminate common data. Every VisionServe Alliance member has anecdotal stories and agency specific data attesting to the success of individual programs (basically comparing ourselves to ourselves), but what we can’t do, is prove to funders and others how successful our individual programs are in comparison to other programs nationally, nor can we prove that specialized services produce better outcomes than generalized services.
  8. We have a lot of “Lone Rangers” out there. Many VisionServe Alliance members are developing protocols for outcomes and assessments, teaching vision courses to OT’s, and participating in research – within their own vacuum. Generally, VisionServe Alliance members are not sharing procedures or data, and they are not forming collaborations within the field.
  9. Networking CEO to CEO is an important benefit of membership, but so are those benefits that put money in our members’ “pockets” – especially now. By participating in the Mutual of America benefit alone, you could save more than you are spending on dues.
  10. VisionServe Alliance needs to continue to grow because what we do together is needed and important. We are the only organization in the field that has representatives from all vision rehabilitation disciplines!  VisionServe Alliance is the closest there is to a “Mother Ship” in this field.  We need to use this network for the betterment of our field and individual services to the people we serve.