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Solutions in Sight_ A Summit to Address the Vision Loss Crisis logo

Dear friends,

Last May, MAB Community Services hosted a summit to develop solutions to address the crisis caused by the aging of the population, which will result in an unprecedented increase in the population that is visually impaired. Without action this will result in a massive economic burden and the risk of greatly reduced quality of life for older adults just as they should be enjoying their retirement.
At the Solutions in Sight Summit, we brought together leaders in healthcare, technology, mental health, active living, and employment to brainstorm about forward-thinking solutions to the challenges of vision loss. It was an amazing gathering of minds from diverse and innovative fields.
So much has happened as a result of the conversations that were begun at the Summit, and we are excited to share it with you. If any of these initiatives is something you'd like to get involved with please let us know. It's not too late
In transformative technology:
  •  MABVI is proud to announce that we have been selected by the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging to start two Low Vision Assistive Technology Centers, at the Brookline Senior Center and the Worcester Senior Center. MABVI has hired staff who will recruit and train volunteers to provide technology assistance at these sites.
  • We are actively recruiting volunteers for technology-focused matches.
  •  $225,000 in multi-year funding from The Boston Foundation and the Highland Street Foundation to support MABVI's technology initiative.
  •  A working group is assessing opportunities to raise awareness within the technology community about the growing market for technologies that meet specific challenges presented by disability, or are universally accessible as designed. We have also formed new partnerships with cutting-edge technology companies in efforts to raise awareness about vision loss.
  • The Carroll Center has initiated new assessment and training options that include Low Vision clinics with New England Eye including Saturday clinics; E-Sight Demonstrations in the Carroll Store; expanded assistive technology assessments for school age children; and expanded optical services and products.
In the healthcare arena, we continue to work to close gaps in care and coverage:
  •  With leadership from the Commission for the Blind, we are participating in developing a pipeline of training opportunities for vision rehabilitation professionals. Partners include Boston University's Sargent College and the University of Massachusetts Boston. Sargent College has established its first course in vision rehabilitation, which will begin in February of 2017.
  •  We are working with Mass General Hospital's Institute of Health Professions on a multiyear research project to measure outcomes for our vision rehabilitation services.
  •  In light of new standards of care recently published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology requiring all low vision patients be referred to vision rehabilitation, MABVI is partnering with its network of low vision providers to ensure that ophthalmologists and their patients have access to these resources in their communities.
  •  MABVI has been appointed to the executive committee of DAAHR, Disability Advocates Advancing our Healthcare Rights, which is co-chaired by the Boston Independent Living Center and Disability Policy Consortium. This will allow us to advocate for the inclusion of vision rehabilitation and orientation and mobility in healthcare reform plans designed for Massachusetts residents. 
  •  As a result of the Summit, Orientation and Mobility training will be included as a covered service by Mass Health pilot programs for the first time.
Conversations at the Summit also informed initiatives in reducing an unemployment rate that is more than double the rate for the population as a whole. Initiatives are underway to support both the job seeker and the employer to tackle this issue:
  •   Perkins School for the Blind launched a free online course co-developed with Harvard Extension School, called Introduction to Inclusive Talent Acquisition. This brand new course gives hiring managers and recruiters the tools they need to attract, interview and onboard qualified candidates with disabilities.
  •  Last spring, Perkins launched BlindNewWorld, a social change campaign aimed at helping the sighted population to be more inclusive of people who are blind and to make the world more accessible to them.  Employment challenges and successes are shared through blogs and tips on the website and through social media.
  •  Easily accessible transportation is a critical element for employees who are visually impaired. At Perkins School for the Blind this past September, Governor Baker unveiled a one-year pilot program that will give RIDE customers the option to use ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber at a discounted rate.
  •  The MBTA solicited input about the new ride-sharing program from Perkins, the Bay State Council of the Blind, the Disability Law Center and other local organizations. 
  •  Perkins launched BlindWays, their innovative free iPhone app which engages the public in helping people who are blind navigate to within a white cane's distance of the bus stop.
  •  The Carroll Center has initiated new programs for transition-age youth 14-22 years of age that focus on career exploration and skill development for success in college and work, expanded skill development with technology and recreation and improved social skills, independent living and safety awareness. Short and long term courses are being offered.
  •  The Carroll Center technology department has expanded offerings for mini instruction on iOS devices and MAC products; expanded technology training courses for clients seeking employment and are providing digital accessibility evaluations and training services to corporations and colleges to ensure equal employment and educational opportunities.
  •  In collaboration with the Mass. Commission for the Blind, The Carroll Center is helping clients gain valuable on the job training and successfully placing them in jobs. In the last year 7 out of 9 participants were placed in employment. Their network of employers hiring clients or providing internships has grown to over 50.
We are also continuing our work in addressing mental health barriers and reimagining services for active living:
  •  We are partnering with AARP of Massachusetts on outreach efforts designed to raise consciousness about healthy and active living with vision loss.
  •  Since housing is one of the most critical elements of healthy aging, we are collaborating with organizations such as Lasell Village and Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly to pilot models for successfully serving older adults with vision loss and training the staff and caregivers who work with them.
  •  We now have formal affiliations with seven mental health providers to offer adjustment to vision loss counseling. MABVI is providing cultural sensitivity training for these providers and linking them with our vision rehabilitation network.
This work will be ongoing and we hope you will be part of it. Our aim is to make Massachusetts a model for what is possible in the field of aging and vision loss when great minds tackle difficult challenges. Please reach out with your ideas and continue the conversation.

Barbara Salisbury 
Chief Executive Officer 
MAB Community Services 
Shaun Kinsella
Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired 
For more information, as well as more videos, audio, and photos of the event, visit mabvi.org/summit

The Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired logo