2024 the Year of Creativity, Collaboration, and Change.
2024 the Year of Creativity, Collaboration and Change.
Let me wish everyone a very happy New Year. Like many of you, I have been thinking about all the things I would like to achieve in 2024.
With that in mind, a recent article in the Washington Post entitled “Older Adults with Common Eye Diseases at Higher Risk for Falls, Injuries,” got my attention. It covered recent research conducted in England and published in JAMA Ophthalmology, which concluded that older adults with certain eye diseases such as Cataracts, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), and Glaucoma are more likely to fall and break bones then their sighted peers. How gratifying to see mainstream media coverage of this important health issue, alerting the public to something all of us in the BVI community have known for years; that older adults new to vision loss experience a greater prevalence of falls and other accidents. I am so glad to see this important health issue finally receiving the attention it deserves.
The above JAMA study supports previous research conducted by John Crews on this subject. Dr. Crews is currently the lead scientist on the Big Data Project, spearheaded by VisionServe Alliance and supported by many of you. These reports provide comprehensive evidence of the struggles older people with vision impairment encounter at the national, state, and county levels. The Big Data Project’s Phase I research offers sobering statistics on the many health and socioeconomic struggles seniors living with vision loss face. The recently developed research database at OIB-TAC was specifically designed as a repository for such valuable information. We must use this research to champion what all of us already know; the BVI community needs more funding to be directed towards seniors living with vision loss.
As the President and CEO of Vision Serve Alliance, I am deeply concerned about ensuring that those living with vision loss get the vision rehabilitation services they need to live independent and productive lives.
Additional funding to the BVI community increases the availability of vision rehabilitation services and addresses the shortage of professionals that provide low vision optometric exams, orientation and mobility training, vision rehabilitation therapy, and assistive technology training. More funding allows the creation of a robust well-funded community where professionals can practice vision rehabilitation services.
To secure additional funding the BVI community must collectively adopt realistic and practical approaches to increasing the number of professionals who provide the services seniors living with vision loss so desperately need.
A national collaboration in the BVI community is required to get this done. Citing the research and statistics identified above, we must reach across federal and state agencies, not-for-profit organizations, associations, and medical and education disciplines, remining them of the needs of seniors in the BVI community and identifying our ability to meet those needs and greatly improve peoples’ lives.
I call upon all of us to engage in this process, open our minds, expand our current notions about service delivery and let creative ideas flow. We must participate in meaningful discussions and set forth an achievable plan of action that moves us forward.
April 14-17, 2024, is VisionServe Alliance’s “Focused on the Future” conference. This open space conference format invites leaders like you and your team to join the entire Blind and Vision Impaired (BVI) community in addressing the most critical issues facing those living with vision loss. It gives us the forum to creatively think and talk about the population we serve.
Let us use this conference as a jumping-off point for this approach. I ask you all to share your thoughts and ideas with me, the VSA staff and each other. Put some of your ideas on paper and bring them up in discussions at all the meetings and conferences you plan to attend this year.
Let’s commit to making 2024 the year of creativity, collaboration and change in the BVI community.