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Release:Jan. 29, 2001

UI Low Vision Service receives grant from Knights Templar Eye Foundation

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Center for Macular Degeneration's Low Vision Service has received a $150,000 grant from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation to help provide funding to people who will benefit from low vision devices but who do not have the financial resources to acquire them. The award, which was presented at a ceremony at the UI on Jan. 19, includes a $100,000 contribution from the national organization and a $50,000 contribution from the organization's Iowa group.

The grant will help cover the cost of low vision devices purchased by qualifying people of all ages who have been evaluated at the UI Low Vision Service or at an Iowa Braille School low vision clinic, said Mark Wilkinson, optometrist and director of UI low vision rehabilitation services.

Wilkinson, who also runs the Braille school clinics, found that nearly 10 percent of individuals who have sought care in the past through the UI and Braille School were unable to afford even the simplest device and another 10 percent could not cover the full cost of beneficial devices.

Low vision is broadly defined as any visual impairment that cannot be reversed with surgery, medication, glasses or contact lenses. Assistive devices that will be covered by the grant range from simple hand magnifiers to hand-held and spectacle-mounted telescopes, video magnification devices for distance and near vision, and computer systems that can read text or enlarge the output on a computer monitor. Portable Braille writing devices with speech output and other devices that primarily work with the sense of touch or hearing will also be available.

"Low vision services are rehabilitative in nature," Wilkinson said. "We ask the person what they have trouble doing because of their visual disability, and then we select or design tools to help accomplish those tasks."

He added the grant will not be an entitlement program, since each individual will be asked to contribute as much as they are able to cover the cost of the devices from which they will benefit. The grant will not cover the costs of low vision evaluations, glasses or contact lenses.

"We anticipate that a small percentage of individuals will need 100 percent support but the majority of applicants will receive 20 to 80 percent support," Wilkinson said.


People interested in finding out about the assistance program as well as low vision services should contact the UI Low Vision Service at (319) 356-8301.

Representatives from the Knights Templar who presented the award earlier this month included: William Jackson Jones, Most Eminent Grand Master of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America; Albert R. Masters, Right Eminent Past Department Commander of the North Central Department of the Grand Encampment, also of the national organization; and Billy Joe Hildreth, Right Eminent Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of the State of Iowa.

The Knights Templar Eye Foundation was founded in 1956 to aid those who need help in the preservation of sight and to promote research in pediatric ophthalmology and developmental biology. The foundation has previously awarded grants to UI researchers. The charitable organization is sponsored by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar and has contributed more than $61 million to low vision care and research nationwide.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.