According to the World Health Organization, 246 million people worldwide are living with low vision and in response, the number of organizations which aim to help people with all forms of vision impairment has exploded in the past century. Numerous organizations have been launched to serve every need. Everything from groups devoted to helping low vision patients cope with daily frustrations to others dedicated to finding cures for low vision diseases. These groups offer creative solutions to common obstacles caused by low vision, and have made an incredible impact on countless lives through the dedicated efforts of their members and donors.
Here are a few that we would like to highlight:
Vision Council of America – The Vision Council of America (VCA) has been serving as the global voice for vision care products and services since 1941. The VCA produces annual reports on the vision industry that provide valuable information to all businesses and people impacted by low vision. Their main mission is to position their manufacturer and supplier members to be successful in the competitive low vision market place through education, advocacy, consumer outreach strategic relationship building and industry forums.
The Foundation Fighting Blindness – Since 1971, The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a non-profit organization, has been funding research into the causes of and treatments for vision impairment. Additionally, the foundation has established the National Neurovision Research Institute, which works to expedite the transition of research finds to clinical trials, in order to more quickly make treatments available to people suffering from retinal degenerative diseases.
Visually Impaired People, Inc. – Visually Impaired People, Inc. is a non-profit organization that deals with the social and emotional aspects of vision impairment. The organization sponsors programs such as the Customer Service Training Program, which teaches people working in the service industry how to best serve those with vision impairment. Their CEO, William Bowman, also gives talks to schools and community organizations to teach children, and adults, about the harmful effects of bullying. There are also small-scale services, such as support groups, mentoring, and training with assistive technologies in their Low Vision Technology Lab.
Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity – The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 90% of people with vision impairment live in developing countries, which is a need that Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity was formed to address. VOSH provides sustainable, effective vision care for people worldwide who can neither afford nor obtain low vision care themselves. VOSH has nearly 70 chapters made up of optometrists, donors, and students who work to educate people on proper vision care. These chapters provide funding for eye doctors to travel to underserved areas and facilitate policy changes that would allow vision care to become more accessible to people in developing countries.
Blind Start of America – Blind Start of America, a non profit organization, has a dual aim: to help people with vision impairment acquire job skills and maintain their independence and to foster relationships between the visually impaired and people with working vision to help remove stigmas related to low vision. All funds collected from related events go to fund the job skills program and provide visually impaired people with scholarships for education and home ownership.
These five organizations are meeting a multitude of needs unique to people with vision impairments. By providing the means to treat, cope with, and hopefully, put an end to vision loss, these organizations are helping bring more of the world to people who may have otherwise been left behind.
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