The Vasantha & Dr. Krupasagar Palakurthi Vision-Aid center of excellence at LVPEI has four focus areas:
Focus Area 1: Advanced training for visually impaired students
Our Vision-Aid India training team works closely with LVPEI to offer several advanced training programs in areas which were not covered by LVPEI prior to the launch. This includes skills training for Banking/Govt exam coaching , Introduction to programming in Python, Corporate Skills Development , Digital Accessibility and Mobile training via our Smart Phone program. As of now, there were 45 visually impaired students from LVPEI working on these programs and 17 had already completed one or more of the trainings. Each of these training programs requires intensive 1X1 mentoring to cover challenging and advanced topics for blind and low vision students, by qualified mentors.
Focus Area 2: Professional training for Vision Professionals
LVPEI is a world leader in training of Vision Professionals. Through this joint program, we have designed a special training focused on vision rehabilitation. Vision-Aid nominates and sends to LVPEI professionals from our other partner locations for training. The blended program in low vision rehabilitation includes one-month on-site training in Hyderabad and 2 months virtual training. As of April, our partner professionals from Shroff Hospital in Delhi and CECF in Pune had completed the training and found it immensely useful. Now they are rolling out the learned best practices in their own settings. This unique program helps to scale up quality professional training in vision rehabilitation throughout India.
Focus Area 3: Affordable Advanced Assistive Technology
While many advances have been made in Assistive Technologies, most of the devices are very expensive and out of reach of most Indians. Three devices were in active focus during last quarter. For each of these, the LVPEI team works closely with Vision-Aid India team to innovate and source affordable high-tech devices. During the past year, the focus has been on 3 such devices:
- Smart Vision –AI powered smart glasses – this revolutionary device has been successfully developed by our partner SHG technologies and is now being rolled out to many locations for advanced field testing in settings including LVPEI Hyderabad and ten other major centers across India. The device costs under 10% of the cost of comparable Western Alternatives. and brings the power of AI and Computer Vision to help blind users “see” objects around them.
- Portable Digital Magnifiers –For persons with Low Vision, portable electronic digital magnifiers are a boon and can magnify text up to 32X allowing them to read books or printed materials in school, work or at home. LVPEI is now using in its mainstream device distribution, 3 affordable portable magnifiers provided by Vision-Aid. These cost less than 30% of the cost of comparable Western alternatives.
- Smart Phones –LVPEI is one of the major distribution points for Vision-Aid’s Smart Phones and Mobile training. Smart Phones come with many apps which can totally transform the lives of the visually impaired and this program helps to provide such devices to persons from poor and under-privileged backgrounds.
Focus Area 4: Research & Development
A new, comprehensive R&D project has been commissioned and the team has started working on a ground breaking data collection and research project on using Contrast Sensitivity for Low Vision Assessments. A team of researchers is already on the job and so far, a total of 260 visually impaired children from surrounding schools in the community have been tested for contrast sensitivity parameters. The end goal of this research to help improve identification and assessment of visual impairment by using modern methods of assessment including the use of contrast sensitivity which is currently overlooked and excludes many visually impaired children. Once the data collection and research has been completed, the team will work with policy makers in both India and at the WHO to advocate for positive policy changes for the benefit of many visually impaired children both in India and abroad.