2004 Conference Proceedings

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Wendy Strobel, MS, CRC, ATP

Wendy Strobel, MS, CRC, ATP;
Jennifer Fossa, BS
Sajay Arthanat BS,OT

University at Buffalo, T2RERC,
3435 Main Street, 322 Kimball Tower,
Buffalo, NY 14214.
Phone: 716-829-3141 x140
Fax: 716-829-2420
Email: wstrobel@buffalo.edu

Industry Profile Summary

Visual impairment has many implications for the 8.6 million Americans who report having the disability (National Center for Health Statistics, 1995). Assistive technology (AT) is often needed to enable people with visual impairments to complete many tasks associated with school, work, and community living. Americans with disabilities have a growing opportunity to benefit from recent developments in AT. It is the responsibility of the Technology Transfer Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (T2RERC) identify innovative technologies for people with disabilities and to introduce those technologies to the marketplace. In order to complete this task, the T2RERC has compiled information on the current state of visual impairment and related technology. Information on needed technology in the field of visual impairment, gathered from leaders in the field, is also included. This paper is a summary of the Industry Profile.

Market research indicates that loss of vision affects 50,000 new people in the United States each year (National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, 2002). By the year 2030, it is expected that 14.8 million Americans who are 65 and older will have some form of visual impairment (Lighthouse International, 1995). Estimates of the economic impact of blindness in the United States are numbered at 38.4 billion dollars, 22.3 billion dollars in direct costs and 16.1 billion dollars in indirect costs (National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, 2002). The leading causes of visual impairment include:

There are many aspects of service provision in the delivery of AT services for people with visual impairment. First and foremost, an evaluation of the needs of the person with a visual impairment must be completed, preferably in the person's customary environment. Secondly, training must also be provided to ensure that the person will benefit from the introduction of the device(s). Thirdly, the person with a visual impairment, or failing that the service provider, must be familiar with the legislation that is relevant to obtaining technology. Current public policy often fails sufficiently address the funding of assistive technology (National Council on Disability (NCD), 2000). Therefore, the complicated funding system associated with obtaining AT must be negotiated. Finally, it is imperative that the person with a visual impairment be familiar with the wide range of AT available to address his/her needs in the community.

Currently available technologies assist people in completing tasks associated with activities of daily living, computer access, access to graphics, and way finding. Most are relatively well known to people in the field of assistive technology. They include magnification devices; telescopic devices; large print, talking, and tactile devices; computer software accommodations such as screen magnification and enlargement programs; scanning and optical character recognition; braille printers; and navigational aids. Despite the broad range of technologies, innovative devices have been slow to reach the consumer market.

Problem Statement Summary

The Stakeholders Forum on Visual Impairment brought the leading experts in the field of visual impairment together to gather primary market data on the technology needs of people with visual impairments. Experts included technology users, developers, researchers, and manufacturers from all over the United States. Together these experts identified a number of technology problem statements to guide the work of the T2RERC in the coming years. Problem statements were identified for the following areas:

These ideal products are explained in depth in the T2RERC's problem statements. Technology solutions to the defined needs of people with visual impairments are sought from technology developers or inventors via a submission form located on the T2RERC website at http://cosmos.buffalo.edu/vision/


Lighthouse International (1995). The Lighthouse National Survey on Vision Loss: The experience, attitudes and knowledge of middle-aged and older Americans. New York: The Lighthouse Inc.

National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research. (2002). The demographics of eye and vision disorders. Retrieved February 12, 2002, from http://www.eyeresearch.org/naevr/demographics.html

National Center for Health Statistics. (1995). National Health Interview Survey- Disability Supplement, 1994- 1995. Retrieved January 10, 2003, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm

National Council on Disability, 2000. Federal policy barriers to assistive technology. Retrieved September 24, 2003 from 

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