Big Data Project Phase One Will Shed New Light on Aging and Vision Loss in America

The Big Data Project

VisionServe Alliance (VSA) and the Ohio State University College of Optometry have partnered, embarking on a project to analyze standardized statewide data and national reports of people who are blind or have low vision.

“The Big Data Project is VisionServe’s most ambitious undertaking to date.  It is an honor to work with the distinguished Ohio State University College of Optometry to bring this project to fruition,” said Lee Nasehi, President and CEO of VisionServe Alliance.

Aptly named the “Big Data Project,” the venture will generate state-level standalone reports showing the prevalence of vision impairment, as well as the demographic, social, and health characteristics of older people with vision impairment in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. In addition, an aggregate document will be prepared to report the nation-wide prevalence of vision impairment and characteristics of older people with vision impairment. Each report will be posted on the VisionServe website as publicly-available downloadable PDFs.

“Each report will be a briefing paper to provide evidence from the data sets describing the prevalence of vision impairment, and will provide some insight into that population based on the available variables,” said John Crews, DPA, nationally recognized for his lifelong body of work in the fields of vision rehabilitation and disability research. “These are factual reports.  We can apply the content to funding, services, and advocacy efforts in any venue.”

The data sets included in the project are the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS),, and the American Community Survey (ACS),

The Pilot Project

The Big Data Project started in Fall 2021 with a pilot project, to which multiple organizations committed their support and participation.  Those agencies, representing Pennsylvania, Louisiana, California, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Florida, contributed or helped raise funds necessary to launch the fledgling project. In addition, a number of national organizations recognize the value of and need for the Big Data Project by providing financial support.  VisionServe thanks these organizations for their financial support of and/or participation in the Big Data Project:

Affiliated Blind of Louisiana Training Center


American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)

BENNY – Blind Employment Network of NY

Braille Institute of America

Chicago Lighthouse

Earle Baum Center of the Blind

Florida Agencies Serving the Blind and its participating member agencies

Guide Dogs for the Blind

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired San Francisco

Lighthouse for the Blind St. Louis

Lighthouse Louisiana

Louisiana Association for the Blind (L.A.B.)

Louisiana Center for the Blind

NewView Oklahoma

New York Vision Rehabilitation Association and its participating member agencies

Pennsylvania Association for the Blind and its participating member agencies

Society for the Blind Sacramento

Spectrios Institute for Low Vision

St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Wayfinder Family Services

Next Steps

“Upon completion of the Aging and Vision Loss reports, VisionServe Alliance plans to continue its collaboration with the Ohio State University College of Optometry,” reports Ms. Nasehi.  “Similar data is badly needed for working age adults, that is, 18 to 64 years old; and for children through age 17 years.  Those two groups will be Phases Two and Three, respectively.”

BRFSS and ACS data sets will also be used in developing the individual state, territory, and national reports, utilizing data and analysis criteria relevant to each age group.

The Call to Action

As the pilot project draws to a close, VisionServe Alliance calls on stakeholders in the field of blindness and low vision to champion the Big Data Project:

  • Make a participation commitment to enlist the vision rehabilitation organizations in your state to support production of your state-specific report
  • Make a financial commitment, pledging support for each of the three phases
  • Write letters of support for VisionServe to include in funding applications to government agencies, foundations, corporations, and others
  • Arrange introductions between VisionServe representatives and members of your various networks who are interested in supporting efforts to address the need to reframe vision rehabilitation and services
  • Contact Lee Nasehi or Libby Murphy with your questions, suggestions, and your commitment

Contact: Lee Nasehi, President & CEO



Contact: Libby Murphy, Project Manager