In February, the National Eye Institute celebrates Low Vision Awareness Month, highlighting the growing numbers of people with low vision in the US and the services and technologies which can support them at school, at work, and in the community. NIDILRR-funded research and development in blindness and low vision has ranged from researching and testing interventions to improve education and employment outcomes, to engineering technology to interact with the modern workplace. As we continue celebrating NIDILRR’s 40th anniversary, we take a look at the latest projects conducting research and development to support the independence and inclusion of people with blindness and low vision, along with a quick look back at the history of projects in this area.
Small Business Innovation Research
NIDILRR-funded technology projects include Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to develop and test prototypes with the goal of bringing these products to the marketplace. Current SBIRs include:
- Indoor Navigation Aid for Individuals with Visual Impairments in Unfamiliar Spaces.
- Touch-Responsive Models for Universal Access to Smithsonian Museums Exhibits.
- Over 25 years, NIDILRR has funded more than 100 Phase I and more than 35 Phase II SBIRs to develop new technologies to support the independence of people with blindness and low vision.
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers
The NIDILRR-funded Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs) conduct advanced engineering research and development of innovative technologies to solve rehabilitation problems or remove environmental barriers for people with disabilities. Three current RERCs which have an impact on the lives of people with blindness and low vision:
- Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center: Develop and Evaluate Rehabilitation Technology and Methods for Individuals with Low Vision, Blindness, and Multiple Disabilities.
- Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Universal Interface and Information Technology Access.
- Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC): From Cloud to Smartphone – Accessible and Empowering ICT.
- The RERC program was one of the first pieces of NIDILRR’s portfolio, including early funding of the RERCs at Smith Kettlewell Institute focusing on blindness and low vision.
Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers
The NIDILRR-funded Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers conduct advanced research, training, and information sharing on topic areas for improving rehabilitation methodology and service delivery systems; improving health and function; and promoting employment, independent living, family support and economic and social self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. Currently, one RRTC focuses specifically on Employment for Individuals with Blindness and Low Vision. This center at Mississippi State University is continuing work has been funded for more than 30 years.
Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects
The NIDILRR-funded Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects conduct research and develop methods, procedures, and rehabilitation technology that maximize the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Current DRRPs conducting research in area that impact people with blindness and low vision include:
- Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project on Inclusive Cloud and Web Computing.
- DRRP on Universal Design Practices to Enhance Work Outcomes.
- Browse through some of the completed DRRPs in this area from 1992 onward.
Field Initiated Research
Field-Initiated projects develop or refine technology and interventions that fill a need identified by the researchers and their stakeholders. Current projects include:
- Audio-Tactile Web Accessibility with Haptic Gloves.
- GoCC4All: Using Pervasive Technology to Provide Access to TV to the Deaf-Blind Community.
- Effect of Guidance Surfaces on Travelers with Vision and Mobility Impairments.
- Investigating Performance Indicators in Accessible and Inclusive Public Transportation.
- Browse through more than 45 field-initiated projects funded in this area since 1984.
These are just a few examples of the work on the NIDILRR grantee community to support the full independence and inclusion of people with blindness and low vision in the community. We invite you to follow the links to each project to learn about their goals and activities, find their publications in the NARIC collection, and visit their websites and social media. Contact our Information Specialists if we can help you in your search!
What about the future of NIDILRR-funded research in blindness and low vision? Maybe it’s you! Sign up for the NIDILRR Announcements list to find out about open grant competitions and opportunities to participate in the peer review process!