Dr. Bhavani Iyer, assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual science, recently received a grant to help Harris County residents whose vision problems cannot be corrected with eyeglasses, medication, or surgery.
Even with corrective lenses, many people with low vision can see 20/60 at best. However, there are a variety of low vision devices, such as telescopes, magnifiers, and electronic readers to help offset their vision loss.
Iyer is using the three-year, $164,645 SightFirst grant from the Lions Club International Foundation to provide outreach programs as well as education and training for the thousands in and around Harris County with low vision. This is the first such grant to be awarded in Texas and the third largest in the country. The project has received an additional $20,000 in funding from local sources.
The program is called the “Harris County Low Vision Project.”
“There are things people with low vision can do to make the most of their vision,” Iyer said. “Through the project, we’re reaching out to people who may be suffering in silence by addressing some of the barriers.”
Educational programs and support services will be offered at two low vision centers in Houston – the Center for Visual Rehabilitation at The Robert Cizik Eye Clinic in the Texas Medical Center and Harris Health System’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.
Iyer plans to establish low vision device loaner libraries at both locations. These would benefit people who need to be trained on the devices or who may want to check them out before buying them.
Examples of low vision aids include miniature telescopes that are attached to eyeglasses or held by hand as well as filters that screen out blue light and glare. Magnification devices for reading can be attached to eyeglasses and stands or held by hand. For those with severe levels of impairment, strong electronic readers are available.
In 2010, approximately 3 million people were classified as having low vision, reports the National Eye Institute. That number is expected to rise to about 9 million by 2050.
Lions Clubs International Foundation is the grant-making body of Lions Clubs International, the world’s largest volunteer service club organization. The LCIF SightFirst program, Lions’ flagship initiative, builds comprehensive eye care systems to fight the major causes of blindness and care for blind and visually impaired persons. For more information, visit www.lcif.org.
-Rob Cahill, Office of Advancement, Media Relations