St. Louis, Missouri – August 7, 2019 – VisionServe Alliance announces it is spearheading the new Aging & Vision Loss National Coalition to tackle critical issues related to older people experiencing impaired sight as the result of age-related eye diseases. The coalition is comprised of 15 national, state, local, private and public agencies representing broad constituencies who will advocate for equal access and quality of life for older Americans with vision loss.

Age-related vision loss is reaching epidemic proportions as baby boomers attain advanced age. Currently, there are 25.5 million adults experiencing age-related diseases impairing vision (National Health Interview Survey, 2016). From 2015 to 2050, the number of adults ages 40+ who are blind is expected to double (Varma, et al, 2016).

Informed by nationwide structured conversations with older people with vision loss and the expertise of the Coalition members, many with over 40 years of experience in the field, the Aging & Vision Loss National Coalition will begin their work by focusing on three key priorities:

  1. Awareness: Increasing awareness among the general public, professionals and especially seniors themselves and their families of the issues faced by older people with vision loss and the significant impact of professional vision rehabilitation services on sustaining their independence and dignity. 
  2. Funding: Enhancing funding for vision rehabilitation services including education, training, assistive devices, and technologies for older people with vision loss.
  3. Expanding Personnel: Expanding the pool of qualified professional vision impairment specialists, through support for university programs and incentives for healthcare students to consider this specialtyand providing broad training for allied health personnel.

The Coalition believes that improving public understanding of low vision and blindness is crucial, starting with older individuals themselves and including policy makers, family members, and service providers. Only through taking this fundamental step can we ensure equal access and promote the highest possible quality of life for older people with vision loss.

Among the Coalition members is the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), which is handing off the 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss to the Coalition. The Coalition will steward this important work initiated by AFB, created to raise awareness, facilitate increased and improved services, and protect and promote the rights of seniors with vision loss to lives of enjoyment, inclusion, and independence.

With appropriate vision rehabilitation services and specific supports, older people with vision loss can age in place in their communities rather than moving into an institution. Vision rehabilitation reduces the hours needed of in-home care; reduces or prevents falls, accidents, and burns; improves communication reducing social isolation; and teaches safe navigation, increasing physical movement and mobility. Yet, less than 3% of older people with vision loss are receiving the services that promote independent living in their home or living option, community and family engagement, and improved quality of life.

The Coalition is issuing a Call to Action and invites interested individuals and organizations to join the work. Make the year 2020 the turning point for access to services older Americans with vision loss require to live independently and be active members of their community and families.

VisionServe Alliance is an association of chief executives (and their leadership teams) of 501(c)(3) nonprofits throughout the United States that provide unique and specialized services to people who are blind or have low vision. We bring together the full diversity of services for one conversation with the ultimate goal of unifying the many issues and organizations operating independently of one another in the field. Members include organizations focusing on national advocacy and/or service issues, employment and manufacturing, adult vision rehabilitation, K-12 residential and on-line schools, early intervention and pre-school, dog guides, low vision clinics, and Braille production. We focus on collaborative projects, national trends, stronger management and leadership, and advocacy issues important to the field. For information visit our website at: www.visionservealliance.org or email us at info@visionservealliance.org

AVLNC Represented Organizations:

  • Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP)
  • American Council of the Blind (ACB)
  • American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
  • Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
  • Florida Agencies Serving the Blind
  • Helen Keller National Center
  • The Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute
  • Mississippi State University OIB-TAC
  • National Council of State Agencies for the Blind
  • National Council on Aging (NCOA)
  • NewView Oklahoma
  • Prevent Blindness
  • VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • VisionServe Alliance
  • Independent Advocates

###

About Author