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Release: Sept. 6, 2001

Center for Macular Degeneration begins public health campaign Sept. 13

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Low Vision Rehabilitation Service in the University of Iowa Center for Macular Degeneration has joined entertainer Harry Belafonte and hundreds of other vision rehabilitation organizations from across the country in a major public health campaign to create greater awareness of how people who are blind or partially sighted can overcome the challenges of vision impairment through counseling and training and low vision rehabilitative services. The campaign kicks off on National Vision Rehabilitation Day, Thursday, Sept. 13.

Now in its seventh year, Lighthouse International in New York hosts the annual observance. According to the Lighthouse National Survey on Vision Loss, one in six Americans age 45 and older report some form of vision impairment, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses. Using recent census figures, this represents 16.5 million middle-aged and older adults. The earlier people learn about vision rehabilitation, the more options they have available to improve their quality of life and maximize their independence.

Mark E. Wilkinson, O.D., Director of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Service said, "Many people are told there is nothing more that can be done to enhance their vision. This may be true medically and/or surgically, however, with low vision rehabilitation services, people can learn new ways to accomplish everyday tasks, and with special devices, they can improve the quality of their lives."

Barbara Silverstone, President and CEO of Lighthouse International (a worldwide leader in vision impairment and vision rehabilitation) said, "National Vision Rehabilitation Day 2001 is a way of focusing attention on the issue of vision impairment while presenting positive solutions. This is a process that carries forward throughout the year and makes a real difference for people who are blind or partially sighted to be able to be independent again."

The National Vision Rehabilitation Day Web site is:

For additional information about National Vision Rehabilitation Day or to arrange media interviews, contact Wilkinson at (319) 356-8301.

The three-part mission of the UI Center for Macular Degeneration is: to identify the primary causes of age-related macular degeneration (AMD); to apply this improved understanding of the disease mechanisms to the prevention of macular degeneration in the majority of people at risk, as well as to the development of sight-saving medical, pharmacological and surgical treatments for those already affected; and to deliver the most advanced medical, surgical, rehabilitative and educational services available to individuals with macular degeneration in a timely, caring and cost effective manner.

Vision rehabilitation cannot restore lost sight, but it can help people who are visually impaired to maximize any existing sight they have or, if they have no vision, it can equip them with techniques to maintain an independent lifestyle.

With training and counseling, visually impaired people can learn to cope with vision loss, travel safely, take care of their homes, meet career objectives and enjoy leisure activities.

Vision rehabilitation professionals function as a team. The team may include orientation and mobility specialists (rehabilitation teachers that are trained in meeting the specific needs of people who are blind or partially sighted), as well as social workers and low vision specialists.

Low vision specialists, clinically trained optometrists and ophthalmologists, conduct thorough eye examinations, evaluate usable vision, and prescribe optical devices such as high-powered spectacles, magnifiers and telescopes. Effective use of such devices may require special training from vision rehabilitation therapists.

Vision loss that cannot be corrected by ordinary glasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery is called "low vision." If an individual has low vision, also known as partial sight, it is important to maximize the vision the person does have, for low vision is usable vision.

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. Visit UI Health Care online at