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Assistive Technology for Vision Impairment

Twa, Michael D.

doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001300

Editor in Chief Birmingham, AL

The first iPhone was launched in 2007, and this small but powerful handheld computer signaled a transformation of how many of us interact with the world today. Smartphones permit us to have portable access to voice communications worldwide, enable some of our most personal and private communications through text and video, and link us to the World Wide Web. Hidden under the innocuously labeled category of accessibility settings is a rich collection of alternative ways to control the function and interface of this powerful mobile computer that we call a mobile phone. What these settings do is nothing short of amazing—they transform the device to provide audio descriptions, captioning, contrast enhancement or reversal, digital magnification, connection to assistive hearing devices, vibrational haptic signaling, voice-activated command interface, text reading, translation, dictation, and much more. What is so exciting about the future possibilities is that here I am describing only a single platform—the modern mobile smartphone.

Assistive technology for vision impairment is making revolutionary strides to benefit patients with vision impairment, and much more is in development. Apple computer has made significant investments in augmented reality as a way to provide more immersive and interactive experiences that blend data and computational simulations into our view of the real world. Facebook acquired Oculus, a virtual reality headset that can provide opportunities for new types of immersive video and social interaction. These are but two forms of emerging technology that can make a difference in how we support our patients with vision impairments through the use of technology for sensory enhancement and augmentation.

The call for submissions to this feature issue generated an enthusiastic response that was overwhelming in number and quality. Readers will note that this issue is more than double the size of the usual monthly publication. The editorial team decided to delay publication so that we could include more content. Our guest editorial team has done an outstanding job of bringing this content together, and we hope you will be inspired by the passion, creativity, and dedication of our featured authors.

Bradley Dougherty served as the lead guest editor for this feature issue. Dr. Dougherty is one of the youngest and newest members serving on the Editorial Board of Optometry and Vision Science and he has done an outstanding job of bringing this issue together with the rest of the guest editorial team. Dr. Dougherty is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Optometry. He received a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences from Ohio University and then earned doctor of optometry, master of science, and doctor of philosophy (vision science) degrees from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Dougherty's research interests include driving with central vision impairment, evaluation of new technologies for low vision rehabilitation, visual assessment, and analysis of patient-reported outcome measures to assess the impact of low vision. He also serves as an attending clinical instructor in the Low Vision Rehabilitation Service at The Ohio State University. Dr. Dougherty is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and was twice recognized with prestigious William C. Ezell Fellowships from the American Academy of Optometry Foundation. His research has been supported through funding from the National Institutes of Health, Research to Prevent Blindness, and the Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation.

Dr. Ava Katherine Bittner is an associate topical editor for Optometry and Vision Science and a frequent reviewer for the journal. Dr. Bittner received her optometry degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 2001 with clinical honors in pediatrics and low vision. She earned a PhD in clinical investigation from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 2011. Dr. Bittner completed a clinical research post-doctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute's Lions Low Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center from 2002 to 2007 and then joined the faculty as an assistant professor at the Wilmer Eye Institute. In 2014, she joined the faculty at the Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry and currently holds the rank of associate professor.

Dr. Bittner's research interests include the psychophysical assessment of the healthy and diseased visual system, both to increase the understanding of this system and to develop tools to monitor disease and therapeutic outcomes. She is also experienced with the design and conduct of clinical trials to assess interventions targeting improvements in visual function for patients with low vision. Dr. Bittner's research has received funding from the National Institutes of Health through the National Eye Institute. She has served as a coinvestigator or consultant for several multicenter clinical trials of devices and treatments for patients with retinal degenerations. Dr. Bittner is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and earned a Research Diplomate in the Low Vision Section. Dr. Bittner was a proud recipient of the William C. Ezell Fellowship Award in 2010 and was also recognized as the 2017 Irvin M. and Beatrice Borish Award as an outstanding young scientist. She is currently the program chair for the low vision section of the Academy. Dr. Bittner has been a member of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology since 2002, served on the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Annual Meeting Program Committee from 2011 to 2014, and was a past chair of the Low Vision Research Group.

Susana Chung is a professor of optometry and vision science at the University of California at Berkeley. She has previously served on the editorial board of Optometry and Vision Science and is a frequent reviewer and contributing author.

Dr. Chung earned a doctor of optometry degree from the Indiana University School of Optometry and later earned a doctor of philosophy at the University of Houston College of Optometry. After her doctor of philosophy training, she completed a brief but very productive post-doctoral fellowship with Professor Gordon Legge at the University of Minnesota, a leading researcher in the field of low vision research and also a guest editor of this feature issue.

Dr. Chung's primary research interest lies in understanding how vision is processed in the presence of vision loss due to eye diseases or disorders. Her work focuses on applying vigorous psychophysical techniques to investigate factors that limit functional vision in people with eye diseases. Her research has received continuous support from the National Institutes of Health since 2000. She leads the Sight Enhancement Laboratory at UC Berkeley, where her team works to combine knowledge from several disciplines that include low vision rehabilitation, functional brain imaging, functional retinal imaging, visual psychophysics, eye movements, and neuroscience.

Dr. Legge is the distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. He is a frequent expert reviewer for Optometry and Vision Science and a contributing author in this feature issue.

Dr. Legge received a bachelor's degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master's degree in astronomy from Harvard University. He obtained a doctor of philosophy degree in experimental psychology from Harvard University before spending a post-doctoral year at the Physiological Laboratory at Cambridge University.

In 2013, he was awarded the Charles F. Prentice Medal, the American Academy of Optometry's highest honor for achievement in research. This award recognizes a distinguished scientist for their career-long dedication to advancing knowledge in vision science.

Dr. Legge is currently the director of the Minnesota Laboratory for Low Vision Research and a founding member and scientific adviser for the Center for Applied and Translational Sensory Science. Dr. Legge's research is dedicated to visual perception with primary emphasis on low vision. Ongoing projects in his laboratory focus on the roles of vision in reading and mobility and the impact of impaired vision on organization of visual centers in the brain.

Dr. Liu is an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is a frequent contributor to the journal on topics relating to low vision, vision assessment, and vision rehabilitation. Dr. Liu received his undergraduate training in physics from Sichuan University (Chengdu, China). He later completed a master's degree in biophysics at the Graduate School of Academia Sinica (Beijing, China). Dr. Liu earned his doctor of philosophy in vision science from the University of California at Berkeley.

Dr. Liu was the former chair of the American Academy of Optometry's Vision Science Section. His research covers a wide range of topics that include binocular vision, eye movements, the assessment of visual function, and low vision rehabilitation. Dr. Liu has also led investigations related to concussion and traumatic brain injury.

We hope you enjoy this feature issue and find it as inspiring as we do. The intersection of technology and sensory impairment is an exciting field with constant developments and we look forward to bringing you more advances over the coming years. Please join me in congratulating this guest editorial team for their effort to bring this feature issue to life.

Michael D. Twa

Editor in Chief

Birmingham, AL

© 2018 American Academy of Optometry