Expert outlines challenges of visual accessibility for people with low vision

June 24, 2014

New approaches and tools are needed to improve visual accessibility for people with low vision in the "real world," according to a special article in the July issue of Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry.

Vision science, in collaboration with other professions, has a key role in developing technologies and design approaches to promote visual accessibility for the millions of people living with low vision, according to the review by Gordon E. Legge, PhD, of University of Minnesota. In recognition of his pioneering work on low-vision research and visual accessibility, Dr Legge was named the 2013 Charles F. Prentice Award Lecture Medalist.

Visual accessibility for people with low vision—challenges and new approaches

Low vision is defined as chronically impaired vision that is not correctable by glasses or contact lenses and adversely affects everyday functioning. It is estimated that there are between 3.5 million and 5 million Americans with low vision, and this number is expected to increase as the population ages.

In his Prentice Lecture, Dr Legge—himself a person with low vision—proposes to "embed low-vision research more explicitly in the " in order to reduce barriers to visual accessibility, He shares examples of his research in two key areas: architectural accessibility and reading accessibility.

Architectural design can enhance visual accessibility for people with low vision. Dr Legge gives illustrated examples of how low vision can make it difficult to navigate architectural spaces; the obstacles and hazards may even change with the light at different times of day.

His research includes the development of software tools to promote the design of visually accessible spaces. These tools help in representing the impact of reduced visual acuity and contrast sensitivity, as well as predicting whether architectural features can be seen by people with low vision. Dr Legge writes, "We need practical models of low vision capable of predicting real-world object visibility."

Dr Legge's work also includes efforts to increase reading accessibility for people with low vision. Advances such as electronic readers provide powerful new tools to improve reading accessibility, but there's still a lack of knowledge of how best to use the features they provide. Research is needed to understand the interacting effects of variables such as display geometry, visual acuity, viewing distance, print size, and font.

Dr Legge urges low-vision researchers to work with other disciplines—including software and hardware developers and design professionals—toward solving the problems of visual accessibility. He writes, "Where we succeed, we will contribute to vision science by showing how vision functions in the real world, and we will find better ways to reduce barriers facing people with visual impairment."

For his outstanding history of insights and research in the field of low vision, Dr Legge was named winner of the American Academy of Optometry's Charles F. Prentice Medal for 2013. Established in 1958, the Charles F. Prentice Medal is awarded annually to an outstanding scientist who has contributed significantly to the advancement of knowledge in the visual sciences.

"Visual accessibility makes an environment, device, or display useable by those with low vision, comments Anthony Adams, OD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science. "Our Prentice medalist is a world research leader in low vision and he gives us clear insight into the ways plays an important role in enhancing visual accessibility for people with low ."

Explore further: Coming soon to an optometrist's office near you: Wavefront analysis

More information: Click here to read "Prentice Lecture 2013: Visual Accessibility: A Challenge for Low-Vision Research."

Click here to watch a video of the 2013 Charles Prentice Medal Lecture given by Dr. Legge.

Related Stories

Coming soon to an optometrist's office near you: Wavefront analysis

August 27, 2013
Techniques developed by astronomers seeking a clear view of objects in space are coming closer to home, as eye care professionals apply the concept of wavefront optics to understanding—and correcting—subtle visual abnormalities ...

'Preferred retinal location' may aid rehabilitation in patients with central vision loss

May 28, 2013
Perceptual learning techniques may provide a useful new approach to rehabilitation in patients with central vision loss—taking advantage of visual plasticity that persists even in old age, according to a special article ...

Smartphones a big help to visually impaired

May 16, 2012
iPhones and other smartphones can be a huge help to the visually impaired, but few vision doctors are recommending them to patients, according to a study co-authored by a Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine ...

Setting blurred images in motion improves perception

September 27, 2013
Blurred images that are unidentifiable as still pictures become understandable once the images are set in motion. That's because of a phenomenon called "optic flow"—which may be especially relevant as a source of visual ...

Training can improve visual field losses from glaucoma

April 17, 2014
(HealthDay)—Visual field loss from glaucoma is in part reversible by behavioral, computer-based, online controlled vision training, according to a study published in the April issue of JAMA Ophthalmology.

Recommended for you

Combination of type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea indicates eyesight loss within four years

July 4, 2017
Research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered that patients who suffer from both Type 2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnoea are at greater risk of developing a condition that leads to blindness within an average ...

Nearly 60% of pinkeye patients receive antibiotic eye drops, but they're seldom necessary

June 28, 2017
A new study suggests that most people with acute conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, are getting the wrong treatment.

Magnetic implants used to treat 'dancing eyes'

June 26, 2017
A research team has successfully used magnets implanted behind a person's eyes to treat nystagmus, a condition characterised by involuntary eye movements.

Drug shows promise against vision-robbing disease in seniors

June 21, 2017
An experimental drug is showing promise against an untreatable eye disease that blinds older adults—and intriguingly, it seems to work in patients who carry a particular gene flaw that fuels the damage to their vision.

Reproducing a retinal disease on a chip

June 15, 2017
Approximately 80% of all sensory input is received via the eyes, so suffering from chronic retinal diseases that lead to blindness causes a significant decrease in the quality of life (QOL). And because retinal diseases are ...

New gene therapy for vision loss proven safe in humans

May 16, 2017
In a small and preliminary clinical trial, Johns Hopkins researchers and their collaborators have shown that an experimental gene therapy that uses viruses to introduce a therapeutic gene into the eye is safe and that it ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.